London confirms choice to use e-counting again

Given the signs, I’m not hugely surprised that London Elects have decided to go with e-counting again for 2010. It’s only likely to cost the taxpayer about £1.5 million more than doing it manually… and that doesn’t seem to bother Boris, but it bothers me. The DRS release claims that, if the GLA agree to use them in 2016 too, then they will be £0.2m cheaper per election than manual counting. But based on my review of the GLA figures for manual counting, they were seriously inflated to make e-counting look more attractive (and the Electoral Commission concurred). So I challenge DRS’ claim to cost-effectiveness.

As is often the case, rather than recognising the fundamental difficulties with e-counting (or e-voting), the GLA have decided that last time’s problems were because of the supplier they chose. So they’ve dumped Indra for a joint venture between DRS Data Services and Electoral Reform Services. (Disclosure: I’m a member of the Electoral Reform Society who own Electoral Reform Services.)

These were the same two suppliers involved in running the last Scottish Parliamentary elections, which also experienced significant problems as observed by ORG. Given his background and the sensitivity of these contracts, it is interesting that Lord (Neil) Kinnock remains on the board of DRS.

ORG will be planning to observe these elections once again. I hope they are trouble-free and improve on the experience in 2008. We’ll be watching!

Full announcement on the DRS website