07 May 2010

Dr Grumble votes

There has been a lot of interest in how Dr Grumble voted. Yesterday his junior staff asked how he would vote. He told them and he told them why. It could be educational for them to know and understand the reasons. Of course Grumble's vote was never going to make any difference. The result in his constituency was a foregone conclusion. It is like that for most of us. But we still think that voting is important and that we have a civic duty to do so.

Grumble met the returning officer. She was charming. She took his name and ticked him off. No identity checks as usual. The system is quaint. Dr Grumble thought as he voted that it was vulnerable and he was not altogether surprised to hear the stories of long queues resulting in people being deprived of this important but often useless democratic right.

A shed, a pencil and a bit of paper is all you need for our Victorian voting system but Dr Grumble thinks it might be time to move to doing it online. Could this be a government computer system that could be made to work? Or is that hoping for too much?

The Grumble polling booth.


townmouse said...

I think we all know what happens to government IT projects ... apart from anything else, it would be open to the perception of fraud - even if not actual fraud. Pencil, paper, and school halls are pretty transparent. I speak as an ex-IT person, and I would hate to see it all go online. I would go further and add in the requirement to dip your finger in indelible ink - not so much to combat fraud, as to make it pretty obvious who really did vote...

WendyCarole said...

I really hope not. Most governemnt IT is dreadfully unreliable to put it politely.

Dr Grumble said...

And if it went wrong we could end up without a government or a hanging chad scenario.

Leigh Simpson said...

Regardless of the quality of government IT projects, electronic voting systems are fraught with danger. Fraud has been shown to be possible using the electronic voting machines used in the US, and an online system would have even more risk. The advantages of the current system are that it's incredibly simple, and that there's a paper trail left over at the end to check results.

Dr Aust said...

I think the paper voting system has a lot to be said for it, including that it is paradoxically less easy to finagle than a computerized one would have been - see townmouse's and Leigh Simpson's comment.

The problem here was understaffing and poor planning, notably a failure either to predict that turnout would be high, or to have a contingency in place for when it proved to be so.

The worry of a "modernized" system would be the prospect of it going wrong, combined with the likelihood that modernization would almost certainly go with resource and staff cutting (less stations, less people to step in in case IT-based systems broke down etc etc).

The polling station foul-ups actually remind me oddly of the hospital bed occupancy/blocking/ number reduction problem. What do you think, Dr G?

Anonymous said...

Could this be a government computer system that could be made to work? Or is that hoping for too much?
yes it is.
John Gibson

Dr Grumble said...

There seems to be unanimity on this one. The first past the post system with a single cross is easy to count but if we were ever to adopt a paper-based single transferable vote I would think that would make counting problematic.

Nobody who has seen the money wasted on computing for the NHS could really be enthusiastic about a computerised system but it will surely come one day.

Dundee Med Student said...

Not sure the government can be trusted to make online voting work- also been using at Dundee for the student association elections for the past couple of years and it takes the excitement out of voting a couple of clicks doesn't really feel like your voting.

Have counted a STV election at my previous university SA elections and it wasn't particularly complicated- it may take a little longer but that's all