Saturday, October 27, 2007

Scots election review critical of user acceptance testing

Extract from an ITPro article

The review was highly critical of the fact that "this technical problem had not occurred during the testing activities undertaken by DRS or by the Project Board".

It found there were a number of small differences in the configuration of the system for the test and for the actual count that were significant to its operational ability to scale.

For example, the most significant of these differences was that the test configuration only had information relating to the set-up at a single count centre, with 50 entries in the 'contest' table, which related to the total number of wards and constituencies to be counted each centre. But the final configuration used at each count centre contained information relating to all count centres for resilience purposes, which resulted in about 550 entries in the 'contest' table.

The Commission also said the 32 Returning Officers individually responsible for election administration in their constituencies found themselves "swimming upstream" against the introduction of the new technology.

And it said the appointment of one contractor to provide the electronic counting system, using the same technology, equipment and software across the whole of Scotland made it difficult for regionally dispersed Returning Officers to take effective remedial action when problems occurred.

Contractor DRS welcomed the publication of the review. It said it fully supported "Gould's proposed review of legislation and political involvement to ensure that e-counting technology is properly integrated into the electoral process".

DRS also told IT PRO that, following the May elections, DRS have completed a full evaluation of its e-counting systems performance and of the issue experienced.

It has subsequently extended its software to include new automated features, like updating of statistics prior to the start of each count; the rebuild of indexes prior to each count starting; and the recompiling of stored procedures prior to each count starting. User level monitoring and early warning of database performance issues arising during the count, with user level capability for corrective actions, have also been added.

The report also called for legislative and policy frameworks that guide electronic counting and better, as well as more comprehensive pilot phases and user acceptance testing.

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