E-voting call after election night fiasco

Electronic voting could avoid the chaos seen at UK polling stations last night, an "expert" has claimed.

Local authority chief executive David Monks, chair of the electoral matters panel for Solace, the Society for local authority chief executives, expressed the view in an interview with BBC News.

"What we've got here is a very Victorian system, that many Solace members have argued is much in need of modernisation," said Monks. "We need a system for the 21st Century that is suitable for our lifestyles."

E-voting is planned in the United States, and has been adopted in India since 2004. But Britain’s Electorial Commission has some way to go before it is convinced the system is secure enough.

It isn't yet clear whether the result of last night's election was affected by the number of voters turned away as polling closed, or if any legal challenge will be mounted. But technology analyst Ovum is already arguing that the problems at polling stations "will lead to a reinvigorated push for e-voting".

Scenes last night reminded many of the "hanging chad" controversy in the disputed US presidential election in 2000, which led to electronic voting being tried out in the US.

Critics of the existing system argue that e-voting makes it easier to vote, boosting turnout. It would also help to prevent spoiled ballots – and avoid the country's agonising wait before a final result is announced.

A limited trial of e-voting was carried out in the May 2007 local elections, but a report from the Electoral Commission cited "issues with the security and transparency of the solutions and the capacity of the local authorities to maintain control".

Digital Rights advocates the Open Rights Group said at the time that the experiment raised "serious concerns".

Makers of electronic voting machines have also been found to on the fiddle in some cases. Some machines leave no "paper" trail and who knows what could go on in the little black electronic box when vested interests get their hands on them?