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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
Doubts raised over e-count system
Polling station
Voters will go to the polls on 3 May
Concerns have been raised about the counting of next month's Holyrood and council elections.

It is expected to be the UK's biggest test yet of the electronic vote counting system.

Experts from the United States have told BBC Scotland the Scottish system lacks enough independent safeguards.

However, Deputy Scottish Secretary David Cairns said the system had been thoroughly tested and a hand recount was still an option if things go wrong.

The Electoral Commission called for e-counting to be independently verified more than three years ago to boost voter confidence but nothing has been done.

We will still have the bits of paper and could do a manual recount if needed
David Cairns
Deputy Scottish Secretary

Speaking to the BBC's Newsnight Scotland programme, two US experts said the system lacks the safeguards that would guarantee voter confidence.

Professor Douglas Jones, of the University of Iowa, has studied the accuracy of electronic counting systems.

He said they can work provided the correct safeguards are in place.

"California law says that after every election they have to select 1% of the vote and do a hand count of those ballots to check that the machines counted them accurately," he said.

'Adopted technology'

Currently the Scottish elections have no such condition attached to the electronic voting system.

The company which supplied the counting machines to polling stations across Scotland, DRS, said it would welcome such a move.

DRS head of elections, Sonia Anderson, said: "As an organisation, we would be hugely in support of an independent accreditation programme if e-counting is to become in the longer term an adopted technology that returning officers have the freedom to use as opposed to manual counting."

She added that the decision to introduce the safety system would rest with the Scottish Executive or the Scotland Office.

Mr Cairns said he had full confidence in the e-vote method.

"People should have confidence to know that if things do go catastrophically wrong, we will still have the bits of paper and could do a manual recount if needed," he said.

Experts speak to Newsnight Scotland about e-counting

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