European campaign for safe e-voting

By EDRi · November 5, 2003

A coalition of technical, legal and political experts launched a campaign
on 4 November to ensure that electronic voting can be trusted by voters
and politicians across Europe.

Voters and candidates must be able to feel certain that voting intentions
are accurately recorded. If any doubts do arise then all stake-holders
must be able to verify and audit all aspects of the election. Without
these protections, debacles such as the count of votes in the US
presidential elections of 2000 are likely to be repeated on this side of
the Atlantic. This could destroy voter trust in the electoral system and
politics more widely.

Computerised voting is inherently subject to programming error, human
error, equipment malfunction and malicious tampering. Due to the opaque
nature of the technologies involved, which few understand, it is crucial
that electronic voting systems provide a voter-verifiable audit trail.
This is a permanent record of each vote that can be checked for accuracy
by the voter before the vote is submitted, and is difficult or impossible
to alter after it has been checked. This must be achieved without
compromising the secrecy and integrity of the ballot.

E-voting systems lacking these safeguards are being rushed upon voters
across Europe with little regard for the risks and the costs to our
democracies. In Ireland, France, Spain and the UK trials were held.
E-voting is already established in Belgium and Switzerland. In Denmark,
Estonia, the Netherlands and in some German municipal authorities trials
will be organised within a year. The European Commission is looking at
introducing e-voting across the EU, and the Council of Europe is
developing guidelines for elections involving e-voting. See also EDRI-gram
nr. 16.

The campaign is calling on all concerned European citizens to sign up to a
resolution demanding a voter-verifiable audit trail. Ian Brown, one of the
campaign founders and director of the Foundation for Information Policy
Research (EDRI-member), commented: “Unsafe e-voting systems could prove a
very expensive way to destroy voter trust in elections. Governments need
to look at less gimmicky ways of increasing public involvement in

Another EDRI-member, Mikko Valimaki, chairman of Electronic Frontier
Finland (EFFI) added: “We have already seen real problems with e-voting
machines in the US. One candidate in the 2000 US elections was awarded
-16,022 votes due to a technical error. While this problem was fixed in
time, in a democratic society we cannot tolerate software or hardware
errors in the voting system.”

Sign the resolution

FIPR E-democracy file

American file on electronic voting