Along with technology supplier Logica it held a dummy run to count 160,000 ballot papers in Perth on Friday. This was the latest stage in testing the system, which uses off-the-shelf software from Opt2Vote.
Aileen Campbell, the Scottish government minister for local government planning, said: “Compared to a manual count which would take at least two to three days, e-counting will be much faster and more transparent. This test is a crucial milestone in the project to make e-counting a reality in 2012.”
Logica is providing the programme management, training services, printing services and more than 40 project and count centre managers for the election under a contract awarded in October 2010.
Scotland’s previous experience of e-counting in the local government elections of 2007 came under criticism from several quarters, including the Scottish affairs committee of the House of Commons. It issued a report the following year that said the technology performed poorly and there was a lack of transparency in the process, and said it would not support the use of e-counting again until these problems were resolved.
When the Scottish government awarded the contract to Logica in 2010, Jim Mather, the minister for enterprise, energy and tourism at the time, said steps had been taken to ensure there was no repeat of the problems of 2007.
Martin Ewart, Logica’s managing director for Scotland, said that it had dealt with the concerns over transparency largely by providing screens on which election scrutineers could see when a ballot is subject to adjudication, and management information on how far the process has advanced in each ward.
“We are in a really solid place,” he said, adding that more pilots will be run before next year’s poll, scaling to handle more votes and extending to disaster recovery.