Friday, May 04, 2007

Warwick District Count Chaos

Last night was a bit of an anti climax. Warwick District were trialling a new electronic counting system. Chaos did not ensue as many had predicted, chaos would at least created some excitement. There was nothing to see for hours and the whole thing seemed to be progressing very slowly. Many people were starting to get bored and after the excitement of the day the adrenaline was wearing off.
When the system eventually failed at around 2:30 with no results declared there was a noticeable lowering of the mood. I sensed a cross party rebellion forming. Credit to Chris Elliott the Warwick District Council Chief Executive who called all the election agents into a back room and after a short while they made the decision we all wanted. Go home to bed and start again with a manual count tomorrow at 1PM.
I was open minded about this system, working in IT I am usually in favour of technology, however having experienced last night I do feel we should stick to the traditional method of counting for the following reasons.
  • The electronic system cant be cheaper than employing counting staff, as the cost of the equipment and vast army of Tekkies to keep the thing running must run into large sums.
  • I am not convinced the electronic system is more accurate and as there is little to see provides the candidates and agents with no visible way of actually seeing what is going on. The beauty of the traditional system is that real votes are counted in front of all interested parties who have the power to call out mistakes. People have faith in this as they have an involvement.
  • The count is part of the excitement of an election. Candidates and supporters go through the campaign, months of planning and work, leading upto the final week, election day itself which is immensely busy, then there is the count. It is an exciting time, watching the end of a hard run race, speculation, celebration and commiseration. Only those that have been involved will know what I mean, imagine watching three important world cup matches in one afternoon and compare that to just finding out the result later on in the news headlines.

On reflection the old system is part of the tradition in politics with which everyone has confidence and has evolved over time. The system we tried is so dull as to put people off politics for life at a time when we need to encourage more involvement.

If we are to make changes, which I am sure we need to, lets make sure there is visibility to all concerned which provides the confidence in the result, lets make sure the system is properly tested and finally lets make sure we keep the fun and excitement.

2 comments:

Tristan said...

Whatever voting system that's used there /must/ be a paper trail.

It sounds like there is one here so they can count by hand.

In the US they've had problems with machines with no paper trail which can lose votes or change them (deliberately or accidentally).

That is the big concern with electronic voting. The voter must be able to verify their vote has registered properly and if need be a hand count must be an option.

Paul Goldberg said...

The Association for Computing Machinery agrees there should be a paper trail in elections -- take a look
here.