Government system to register to vote in the referendum gets overloaded. Deadline gets extended. Cockup or conspiracy?
News reports tell us the best measure of traffic they had was the peak of registrations ahead of last year’s general election, and they built the system to cope with many times more traffic than they’d had then. Yet traffic surged way beyond even that ‘surplus’ capacity. So while cockup is entirely plausible, it’s by no means inevitably the cause.
It is widely supposed that late registrations come predominantly from younger people, and that younger people are more likely to vote In. So bringing the system down ahead of the deadline would favour “out”, while extending the deadline would favour “in”. Overall my best guess would be they more-or-less balance – at least if the system doesn’t go down again.
Most campaigners on both sides seem to accept it’s just one-of-those-things. But a few “out” campaigners have been remarkably quick to jump on it. It’s gerrymandering (Ian Liddell-Grainger). It could be cause for Judicial Review in the event of a narrow “in” vote (Bernard Jenkin).
Hmmm, cui bono? Jenkin’s line of reasoning points to a vote-again-until-you-get-it-right scenario. We have a motive: someone stood to gain from the system failing on the last day. If the deadline is not extended, a chunk of predominantly-in voters are excluded. If it is extended, they’re preparing the ground for judicial review: get the courts to decide. A win-win.
A Denial of Service attack can bring any system on the ‘net down for a while, and is very easy to mount (buy yourself control of a million virus-infected PCs and have them all bombard the target system to overwhelm it).
Cockup or Conspiracy? I anticipate some more evidence, albeit far from conclusive. If it goes down again tomorrow, that signals cockup – unless someone could organise a new DoS attack remarkably quickly. If it survives to the new deadline, it smells more of conspiracy.