Germany to return to non-electronic polls


GERMANY’S HIGHEST court ordered a return to the ballot box yesterday, dismissing the country’s electronic voting machines as out of keeping with the principle of fair and open elections.

The constitutional court ruled that using 1,800 voting machines from the Dutch firm Nedap in the 2005 general election breached German election law.

This states it should be possible to check election procedures and results “in a reliable fashion and without any particular specialist knowledge”.

Even with a print-out of votes, the court ruled the machines did not guarantee the control measures the law requires. Neither did the presentation of the results saved on a computer chip satisfy the “public control” function of vote-counting.

It shared the concern of the two complainants in election authorities’ “blind trust” in machines where software and hardware could theoretically be manipulated to alter an election result.

“We’re dealing with a complete control vacuum after the votes have been cast,” said Prof Wolfgang Löwner, for the complainants. As there was no evidence of serious errors or manipulation of the machines used by some two million voters in 2005, the court said the general election result remained valid.

The court made clear yesterday that it did not want to close the door to machine- or internet-voting and that its ruling was based on the current generation of voting machines.

“One could come to the conclusion from the ruling that the court is technophobic and misjudges the challenges and possibilities of the digital age,” said presiding judge Andreas Vosskuhle.

The ruling will complicate life for German authorities, facing state polls, European and federal elections. “The court has made clear the ability to recheck votes has priority over the ease or expedited final result,” said Bundestag president Norbert Lammert.