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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Fears raised over e-voting
One of the world's leading experts on electronic voting is warning the government that computer polls cannot be trusted.

Rebecca Mercuri, assistant professor of computer science at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, is meeting officials at the Cabinet Office on Thursday.


I am horrified that anybody would even consider using the internet for elections

Rebecca Mercuri
E-voting expert
Voting through the internet or touch screens gives more chance for electoral fraud, says Ms Mercuri.

The warning comes as the government continues to consult the public and experts about moves towards so-called e-democracy.

Fraud worries

Ms Mercuri has already given evidence to the American Congress and now is bringing her research to the UK.

An electronic voting booth
Electronic voting leaves no paper trail, says Mercuri
She is giving a lecture, organised by internet think tank the Foundation for Information Policy Research, at the Royal Academy of Engineering on Thursday.

She told the Guardian newspaper: "E-voting systems actually provide less accountability, poorer reliability and greater opportunity for fraud than traditional methods.

"People assume that electronic voting is just the same as other technologies we use in everyday life, like banking or airline ticketing, but there are crucial differences.

"With all these other systems there is a physical data trail, bits of paper that allow us to check that the transactions are accurate.

"E-voting offers none of these safeguards."

Ms Mercuri argued that internet voting was even less safe since websites could be "spoofed, identities can be stolen and the whole thing is open to international attack".

Prevent

"Without using biometric techniques like iris or fingerprints, there is no way of establishing online that the person voting is who they say there are," she said.

Only by producing a print-out of an electronic vote which can be checked by the voter before it automatically drops into the system can prevent the problems, she says.

The Electoral Commission has said trial schemes have paved the way for internet, electronic and telephone voting at a future general election.

More pilot projects are needed before the systems can be used for a national election, the commission said in August.

The commission is looking at potential abuses of new voting methods, but says no electoral system is immune to fraud.

Commission chairman Sam Younger has argued there could be an impact on turnout if more convenient methods of voting are not rolled out over the next decade.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
E-voting
Would you trust your vote online in an election?
See also:

17 Jul 02 | Politics
07 Jan 02 | dot life
29 Apr 02 | dot life
07 May 02 | Politics
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