Finnish e-voting results annulled by the Supreme Administrative Court

By EDRi · April 22, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Finnische E-Wahl Ergebnisse vom Obersten Verwaltungsgerichtshof annulliert |]

Macedonian: [Резултатите од е-гласањето во Финска поништени од Врховниот управен суд |,mk/]

The Finnish Supreme Administrative Court has ruled on the municipal
elections of 2008, in which an e-voting system was piloted.

In its decision, the court sided with the complainants, overturning an
earlier decision of Helsinki Administrative Court and the decisions of the
municipal central elections committees to confirm the election results. As a
result, the three municipalities that took part in the Finnish e-voting
pilot must now hold new elections as soon as possible. As the e-voting pilot
has ended and the law authorizing e-voting expired in December 2008, the new
elections will use a traditional paper ballot system.

The Supreme Administrative Court decision was based on two issues: first,
the voting instructions that the voters had received by mail were incorrect,
and second, the user interface of the e-voting terminals was deemed to be
flawed. The voting process utilized a smart card given to each voter, and
upon premature removal of the card, the voting terminals gave no indication
that the vote was not cast. As the system did not use a voter-verified paper
ballot, voters might have been left with an impression that the vote had in
fact been cast.

It is notable that the Court did not address the general lawfulness of
e-voting. According to the Finnish law authorizing e-voting, electronic
ballot boxes would need to be archived until the next election. These
electronic ballot boxes contain encrypted information on who voted and how.
This poses a risk to voter secrecy. However, the Court declined to rule on
whether this is unlawful, or whether the electronic ballot box would need to
be destroyed.

In addition, the Court did not address the question of whether an e-voting
system would need to be more transparent. A significant amount of system
design in the Finnish e-voting pilot was declared ‘trade secret’, and the
system source code is closed. The Court decision still leaves an open
question whether paperless, ‘black box’ e-voting systems could be fielded in
the future.

Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi) press release on the Court decision (only
in Finnish, 9.04.2009)

E-voting appeal won: we have new elections! (9.04.2009)

Effi’s e-voting ‘shadow report’ in English (1.09.2008)

Finnish e-voting system must not stay a trade secret (11.02.2008)

Council of Europe report on the Finnish e-voting pilot (1.12.2008)

Supreme Administrative Court decision (only in Finnish, 9.04.2009)

EDRi-gram: An error margin of 2% in municipal elections ruled acceptable in
Finland (11.02.2009)

(contribution by EDRi-member Electronic Frontier Finland)