The postman just delivered my annual voter registration form and I was interested to see that you could confirm your registration details on-line. What a disappointment it was.

The URL give was www.electorregistration.co.uk/sodc, which immediately made me wonder; a .co.uk domain? Why isn’t this a .gov.uk domain? It seems that a commercial company is providing the service. Well, ok, I guess, not ideal but in this time of public-private partnerships that’s only to be expected (even if PPP is largely a sham in terms of value for money).

nojscript

So I went to the site to be greeted by a complaint that javascript must be enabled. Oh dear. Hardly accessible is it? I was under the impression that sites providing government functions must comply with WAI/WCAG, this one failed at the first hurdle. What’s worse is looking at the source for the site you can see the entire thing is driven by javascript; https://www.electorregistration.co.uk/common/js/hera.js to be exact. Accessibility be damned.

The "login" process asks for two security codes, one of which is a password field for no good reason. Why no good reason? Well both codes are printed on the form delivered by post. Hardly great security when both parts are available to anyone who intercepts the form and wishes to submit new, bogus registrations.

So I go through the process (no more screen shots, sorry, it only lets you follow the process once, at least they got that right) and it comes to the submission page. Except when I try to submit the form it complains I haven’t confirmed who I am. I look at the details on the form; beside my name there’s a radio button, which, as I’m the only person in the house, is already selected. So I click submit again, to be greeted with the same error message. Weird, so I click the radio button, and then resubmit. Now it works. So the javascript on the page is wanting users to click a radio button which is already checked in order to proceed. How many people are going to work that out? Incredibly stupid, both in terms of interface design and default values, if you needed a physical click in the radio box then don’t check it for people by default.

Finally it submits, and then forwards you to a page on the district council site, a page that doesn’t exist. That’s reassuring. So have I been successful or not? I have no idea.

I wondered about the supplier, Halarose. They describe themselves as

a trusted supplier of cutting edge election management software to Local Authorities throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Sorry, did someone redefine "cutting edge"? Cutting edge would be a process that excludes internet users not running javascript (not the paranoid like me, but the "legitimate" users using accessible browsers due to sight problems, etc.). Cutting edge would be providing a page with valid HTML/XHTML, not one littered with errors, which again may interfere with accessibility as well as showing a lack of attention to detail. Cutting edge would be a system that passes the WAI guidelines (driving the entire system through javascript to progress from page to page is not accessible.)