Finnish e-voting fiasco: votes lost

By EDRi · November 5, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

A fully electronic voting system was piloted in the Finnish municipal
elections on 26 October 2008. EDRi-member Electronic Frontier Finland (EFFi)
had criticised the pilot program for years, recently releasing a report on
its deficiencies.

Today, the Ministry of Justice revealed that due to a usability issue,
voting was prematurely aborted for 232 voters. The pilot system was in use
in three municipalities; this amounts to about 2 per cent of the electoral
roll. Seats in the municipal assemblies are often determined by margins of
only a couple of votes.

It seems that the system required the voters to insert a smart card to
identify themselves, type in their selected candidate number, then press
“ok”, check the candidate details on the screen, and then press “ok” again.
Some voters did not press “ok” for the second time, but instead removed
their smart card from the voting terminal prematurely, causing their ballots
not to be cast.

This usability issue was exacerbated by the Ministry of Justice
instructions, which specifically said that in order to cancel the voting
process, the user had to click on “cancel” and after that, remove the smart
card. Thus, some voters did not realise that their vote had not been

Also, there has now been at least one report of touchscreen issues. A voter
had repeatedly tried to click on “ok”, but either due to system lag or
touchscreen sensitivity problems, it took “minutes” to get the button press
registered. If hit by this type of problem, the voters may well have thought
that the ballot casting process had completed.

EFFi argues that the election should be re-run in the affected
municipalities, and has issued a press release arguing for the legal basis
of a re-election. According to the Finnish election law, this would require
a decision from the Administrative Court.

The electronic voting experiment in positive feedback – about 200 votes,
however, was interrupted by mistake (only in Finnish, 28.10.2008)

Some technical glitches explained by users(only in Finnish, 29.10.2008)

EFFi press release (only in Finnish, 28.10.2008)

Flash demo of the e-voting user interface

EDRi-gram: Effi’s e-voting ‘shadow report’ (10.09.2008)

(contribution by EDRi-member EFFi – Finland)