Ebusiness /Public policy /News

E-voting developers dismiss criticism
By Dinah Greek [21-10-2002]
Academic's accusations dismissed as outdated
Organisations working on electronic voting technology have dismissed criticisms that it is unsafe and fundamentally flawed.

Fears were raised after Rebecca Mercuri, an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, told Cabinet Office officials earlier this month that e-voting systems are dangerous.

She claimed that the systems fail to provide the necessary accountability, offer poorer reliability and provide greater opportunity for fraud than traditional methods.

Mercuri, who has also addressed the American Congress about potential security problems, said last week that people could not rely on the security of e-voting.

She also pointed out at two seminars organised this month in the UK by independent think tank, the Foundation for Information Policy Research, that websites set up for internet voting could be "spoofed" and were vulnerable to sabotage.However, Julia Glidden, managing director of Election.com, a voting software and services company, vehemently denied the accusations.

"Mercuri is three years behind the times, and has not taken on board new technology and projects that governments around the world are working on," she told vnunet.com.

"I would feel more confident of her views if she was participating on the Oasis Committee, which is working on developing new XML technology for e-voting."

John Stevens, e-security demo programme manager at BT, which is developing security for e-government, also felt that Mercuri had taken no account of recent developments.

"We have, and are developing, robust systems in close co-operation with the government, and the pilot schemes being run around the UK are to test these out and address security issues," he said.

The UK government's response to Mercuri's warnings was lukewarm.

The Cabinet Office declined to comment, and the Electoral Commission, currently running trial e-voting schemes in local elections, was equally dismissive.

The Commission said in a report last August that more pilot projects are needed before the systems can be used for a national election and that it is looking at potential abuses of new voting methods, but it admitted that no electoral system is immune to fraud.

A spokesman for the Commission said: "Mercuri's visit was nothing to do with us but, from what we gather from the seminars and Cabinet Office meeting, there was not much new in the speech she gave.

"We are aware of all the issues and this didn't move the debate on at all."

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