US expert ‘extremely concerned’ about e-voting in S’pore

April 20, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

A few days after the Singapore Democrats warned of the Government’s intention to procure electronic voting machines (EVMs), the Straits Times swung into action and contacted the Elections Department for comments.

The newspaper quoted the Department’s statement that “to date, no decision has been taken yet on when electronic voting will be implemented in our elections and which electronic voting system will be used.”

The Straits Times also reported that the subject is not new as it was debated and approved by Parliament in 2001. Note that the Elections Department did not categorically state that EVMs would not be used in the next GE.

Many Singaporeans are not aware of the fact that everything is in place for the PAP to switch to using these machines. It’s only a question of when and how it will be done.

The Straits Times also tells us that “the system must also allow for voting in secret and be safe from fraudulent use.” But while the media in the US are screaming and hollering about the weakness of such systems, there is only silence here in Singapore.

The fact remains that such computers are highly open to fraudulent use. In addition, we do not have an independent elections body to audit and monitor the integrity of an e-voting system if and when it is implemented.

TRebecca Mercurihe Singapore Democrats did our own homework and contacted Dr Rebecca Mercuri, one of the world’s foremost expert in computer security. Dr Mercuri’s research into the abuse of e-voting systems have been cited in briefs to the US Supreme Court as well as by the US and UK governments.

She told us: “I would be extremely concerned about Singapore’s proposed procurement and use of EVMs. I believe that the best voting system involves voters hand-marking paper ballots, with a public hand-count of all ballots. Any electronic tallying, of either hand-prepared or electronic ballots, cannot be relied on as accurate.”

Dr Mercuri pointed out that some of the e-voting systems that are used in the US have the capability of deleting votes. Either that or extra votes can be cast — without detection.

This was confirmed as recent as only a few weeks ago in California with certain Diebold/Premier voting systems found to be open to misuse and abuse.

It was also reported last month that the Irish government will scrap the idea of using e-voting despite it having purchased the computers. The reason is because it could not trust the integrity of the system. Likewise, Germany and the Netherlands have abandoned plans to switch to e-voting.

E-voting in Singapore is an issue that must be resurrected. We ignore it at our peril.