Mock e-voting trial to take place in Gateshead during local council elections

A mock trial of electronic voting is to take place in Gateshead, near Newcastle, during the 2019 local council elections. The trial is being undertaken by academics with the permission and co-operation of Gateshead Council and has been approved by the University of Warwick’s ethics committee.

Professor Feng Hao, from the Department of Computer Science at Warwick, told WebRoots Democracy that it will be “the first trial of a fully electronic voting system with end-to-end verifiability in the UK”.

“On May 2nd, voters at the Gateshead civic center, one of the busiest polling stations in Gateshead, will vote as usual using paper ballots. Upon exit, they will be invited to participate in a voluntary trial using the new e-voting system for a mock election. After voting, they will be given an anonymous survey form to indicate which system they prefer. This is the first trial of a fully electronic voting system with end-to-end verifiability for polling station voting in the UK, and in the world. It is also the first time that voters will have a chance to use both paper ballots and e-voting, and they can compare side by side to determine which system they prefer.”

Gateshead_Millennium_Bridge
A mock trial of electronic voting will be taking place in Gateshead during the local council elections.

The e-voting system being used in the Gateshead trial is based on a peer-reviewed protocol (PDF) called DRE-ip (direct-recording electronic voting machine with enhanced privacy). Professor Hao said it is possible to implement DRE-ip for both polling station and internet voting. However, the Gateshead trial this week is for polling station voting only. He claims the DRE-ip system will allow a voter to verify if their vote is cast as intended, recorded as cast and tallied as recorded without involving any tallying authorities, while preserving their privacy – a process known as being end-to-end verifiable.

Local elections are being held in the United Kingdom on Thursday 2nd of May 2019, contesting 248 English local councils, six directly-elected Mayors in England, and all 11 local councils in Northern Ireland.

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