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German Court Bans E-Voting As Currently Employed 82

Posted by timothy
from the grandfathered-in dept.
Kleiba writes "The highest German Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, Federal Constitutional Court) ruled that electronic voting machines like Nedap ESD1 and ESD2 are not permissible in Germany. Der Spiegel, a well-known German newspaper, is featuring article on today's decision (in German; Babelfish translation here) which was the result of a lawsuit by physicist Ulrich Wiesner and his father Joachim Wiesner, a professor emeritus of political science. The main argument against the voting machines in the eyes of the Court is that they conflict with the principle of transparency. 2009 is a major election year for Germany, with parliamentary elections in the fall." Reader Dr. Hok writes "Voting machines are not illegal per se, but with these machines it wasn't possible to verify the results after the votes were cast. The verification procedure by the German authorities was flawed, too: only specimens were tested, not the machines actually used in the elections, and the detailed results (including the source code) were not made public. The results of the election remain legally valid, though."
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German Court Bans E-Voting As Currently Employed

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  • Wheres the tag (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @08:59AM (#27050433)
    suddenoutbreakofcommonsense ?
  • by Caue (909322) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:15AM (#27050577)
    We've been using voting machines in Brazil for quite some time now, always with satisfatory results

    that makes me wonder: how hard is it to hack a piece of paper and a pen? if you have the means and a set objective, you can "hack" anything. And you don't even need a computer to do so.

  • by johannesg (664142) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:22AM (#27050649)

    We've been using voting machines in Brazil for quite some time now, always with satisfatory results

    that makes me wonder: how hard is it to hack a piece of paper and a pen? if you have the means and a set objective, you can "hack" anything. And you don't even need a computer to do so.

    The difference is numbers. A single programmer in the right place can hack an entire election, untraceable for anybody else. To perform a similar hack in a pen and paper system you would need thousands, if not tens of thousands of people. The chances of none of them talking are slim, thus there is a much better chance of people finding out about the fraud.

  • Re:Hard copy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beleriand (22608) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:24AM (#27050675)
    This only makes sense if it is verified immediately by the majority of the voters. If it's just an internal hard copy, a manipulated machine can just "punch out" the same wrong vote that is stored, while fooling the voter on the display.

    Now what's the point of complicated and expensive machines which would present a printout to voters, ask for confirmation, etc?

    Pen&Paper voting is much cheaper, and very secure.

  • Wrong metaphor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:43AM (#27050883)

    Electronic voting machines are a mistake. While we say that they should be as easy and secure as ATMs, and they should be, but what most people don't see is that ATMs are not easy.

    A large segment of the voting population, in the U.S.A. anyway, does not use ATMs because they are hard to use and confusing. ATMs are an "opt in" technology. Banks still have tellers and branches.

    yes, over time as the population gets accustomed to technology, electronic voting may make sense. Maybe in a generation or two. Right now, it excludes the elderly or Luddite population. My brother in-law is 40, and he doesn't use ATMs and doesn't own a computer!!

    Sure we can argue that maybe they shouldn't vote, but that is a different conversation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:04AM (#27051175)

    The difference is numbers.

    Exactly. And there is no way to check the results. You have to trust the people running the voting system.

    With paper and pen votes there are people from different political parties in the voting commitee, so they can keep an eye on their fellow commitee members, so that they can't invalidate a paper vote or stuff additional votes into the box.

    With an electronic voting system computer professionals can be delegated by different parties, but it is much harder to keep a tab on what the other is doing than with simple paper/pen systems.

  • Re:Yup (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pimpimpim (811140) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:13AM (#27051267)
    The judgment indeed leaves for wiggleroom. They did not ban e-voting per se, instead they required the collecting and the counting of the voting to be transparent to the population, in accordance to the constitution. Interesting question is, how e-voting can have transparent counting, open source code for the machine comes to mind.
  • by Jane_Dozey (759010) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:24AM (#27051399)

    And to add to that they also have to all be able to verify that the machines do exactly what they say they do internally and that there's no nefarious code, that once the data has left the machine it is verified as being correct and remains so.
    Then there's the issue of the machine being left unguarded, who knows if someone tampered with it if it was? At least with paper ballots, if they're unaccounted for one moment and then they show up they can be checked quickly or heck, destroyed if there's any suspicion.

  • Re:Wrong metaphor (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:55AM (#27051789)

    The only way an ATM could possibly be difficult would be if you couldn't read or, as is probably the case, they want to remain ignorant voluntarily.

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:55AM (#27051797) Homepage Journal

    We've been using voting machines in Brazil for quite some time now, always with satisfactory results

    How do you know the results are correct, and to what degree? This is a VERY serious question.

    If politician A beats politician B by 10%, with the win fairly evenly distributed across many precincts and recounts of the paper ballots confirm the numbers, then you have a pretty strong reason to believe the outcome is correct, because alteration of that many votes in that many precincts would be intractable, as long as reasonable care is taken in the transportation and counting, and as long as all phases of the process are open to observation by the representatives of the political parties.

    People can see pieces of paper, and watch how they're handled, sorted, counted, etc.

    People cannot see digital bits represented as minute current flows, so bits are fundamentally less transparent.

  • Re:Yup (Score:5, Insightful)

    by he-sk (103163) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:32PM (#27053201)

    Add in an expert commission to review the machines ...

    Fail. The ruling specifically says that evoting has to be transparent to the average citizen that is no computer expert. Good look coming up with a scheme that fulfills this requirement.

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