The ORG and FIPR week of e-voting events

By EDRi · February 14, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Last week there were three e-voting events hosted in London by EDRI members,
the Open Rights Group (ORG) and the Foundation for Information Policy
Research (FIPR).

On 6 February guests saw a screening of the documentary film
“Hacking Democracy” which reveals in detail the failings of e-voting and
e-counting systems in the United States.

After the film a lively panel, chaired by ORG’s e-voting co-ordinator Jason
Kitcat, discussed the film’s implications particularly given e-voting pilots
planned in the UK for May 2007. On the panel were John Pugh MP (Liberal
Democrat); Russell Michaels, one of the film’s co-directors and Dr Rebecca
Mercuri, an e-voting expert from the United States.

On 8 February there were two events which gathered, for the first time, a
wide array of e-voting experts and activists from around the world. In the
afternoon the European e-Voting Activism Workshop was started with a keynote
by Harri Hursti, a Finnish security expert who has demonstrated a number of
major security flaws in US election systems. Mr Hursti discussed how he
compromised an optical counting system to provide the finale for “Hacking
Democracy”. He also shared his views on the wide variety of ways in which
e-voting and e-counting systems are vulnerable to fraud and error.

Subsequently experts from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands
and the United States presented the problems they were experiencing with the
introduction of e-voting in their countries. Attendees were struck by the
strong similarities between all the presentations:

– Governments would, with extremely weak standards in place, contract the
running and monitoring of elections to private companies;
– These companies would do minimal testing and withhold the results of those
– Problems and possible indications of fraud would arise during and after
elections. Further investigation would be impossible due to failings in the
technology and/or due to obstruction by vendors and government.

After the workshop’s broad overview of e-voting, the evening event
“e-Voting: A challenge to democracy?” provided time for more detailed

Margaret McGaley, the founder of Irish Citizens for Trustworthy e-Voting,
reported on the thus-far abortive attempts to introduce e-voting machines to
the Republic of Ireland. She noted that early in the process experts had
offered advice but weren’t listened to. After pushing on at great expense
the Irish government were forced to create an Independent Commission on
Electronic Voting which found serious flaws in the Nedap voting machines and
software purchased.

Dr Anne-Marie Oostveen, a founder of the Dutch “We don’t trust voting
computers” foundation, reported how in the Netherlands the government
position went from ‘trust us’ to uncertainty. “We don’t trust voting
computers” demonstrated on national TV several important hacks on the Nedap
machines used in the majority of Dutch municipalities. The result was the
withdrawal of SDU machines from elections and the creation of an independent
commission to examine the voting process.

Colm MacCarthaigh, a founding member of Irish Citizens for Trustworthy
e-voting, now following the Dutch situation since it has become resident in
The Netherlands, tied together the Dutch and Irish stories. He commented on
how the Irish independent commission’s report had provided information on
the Nedap machines which had helped the Dutch activists find flaws more
quickly. The successful Dutch hacks, in their turn, helped apply more
pressure on the Irish government.

Dr Rebecca Mercuri presented the latest developments concerning voting
technology in the United States. She noted how vendors, when forced to
create voter-verified paper audit trails, had created unreliable, barely
usable systems which had created new problems of their own. In place of
e-voting machines Ms Mercuri advocated the use of paper ballots, perhaps
optically or barcode scanned. To conclude Ms Mercuri argued that Internet
voting, as proposed for the UK’s 2007 pilots, was an inherently flawed
technology that should not be pursued.

One question which kept being asked after every one of our events was, why
are governments pushing so hard for e-voting technology when the problems
are so evident? We just don’t understand it.

The events ended with the activists resolved to meet more often and
collaborate through a newly formed umbrella grouping, ‘Europeans for
Verifiable Elections’. The Open Rights Group will continue its campaign
against e-voting in the UK and our sister organisations will carry on their
work across Europe.

Audio, video and slides from the events will be available soon


Europeans for Verifiable Elections

(Contribution by Jason Kitcat – EDRI-member Open Rights Group)