Warwick lead the first verifiable e-voting trial in the UK
Researchers from the Department of Computer Science, University of Warwick, joined by colleagues from Newcastle University and the University of York, led the first successful trial of an end-to-end verifiable e-voting system for polling station voting in Gateshead, Newcastle during the local elections on 2 May 2019. This trial was supported by the electoral service officials at the Gateshead council and was approved by the University of Warwick’s research ethics committee.
This is the first trial of a fully electronic voting system with end-to-end (E2E) verifiability for polling station voting in the UK. Being E2E verifiable, the system allows voters to independently verify if their votes are cast-as-intended, recorded-as-cast and tallied-as-recorded while preserving their privacy. By contrast, with paper ballots, voters must trust other people to record and tally their votes correctly, but they cannot verify this by themselves. The trialled e-voting system is the research outcome of an ERC starting grant, led by Professor Feng Hao from the Department of Computer Science. The prototype was developed under the support by Innovate UK and the trial was sponsored by the Royal Society.
On the election day, voters went to the Gateshead civic centre polling station to vote on paper ballots as usual. Upon exit from the polling station, they were invited to try a touch-screen based e-voting system for a mock election involving a set of dummy candidates. Voters were then provided with an anonymous survey form to indicate based on their voting experience, which of the two voting systems did they prefer. Nearly half of the voters at the Gateshead civic centre polling station participated in this trial and provided many useful feedbacks. From the survey results, voters generally found the trialled e-voting system easy to use, and preferred it to paper ballots.
From Gateshead Council News, this is "a new system that could completely revolutionise the elections system". The Gateshead trial is also covered in the BBC News, University Press Releases, Webroots democracy, Government Business, Gizmodo, and ChronicalLive. A video demonstration of the trialled e-voting system is available on YouTube.