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No e-voting in Germany

11 March, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: Keine E-Wahlen in Deutschland

Macedonian: Нема е-гласање во Германија

The German Federal Constitutional Court decided on 3 March 2009 that electronic voting used for the last 10 years, including for the 2005 general elections, was unconstitutional and therefore not to be used for the next elections in September 2009.

The court ruled that the use of the electronic machines contradicts the public nature of elections and the equipment used in 2005 had some shortcomings. However, as there has been no evidence of errors in the past, the results of the previous elections remain valid.

The use of e-voting was challenged by political scientist Joachim Wiesner and his son, physicist Ulrich Wiesner who complained that the system was not transparent because the voter could not check what actually happened to his vote, being actually asked to blindly trust the technology. The voting machines which are manufactured by the Dutch firm Nedap, do not print out receipts. In the plaintiffs' opinion, the results could be manipulated.

A petition signed by over 45 000 people in 2005, trying to ban e-voting, had been rejected by the German Government. Now, the court ruled that the Federal Voting Machines Ordinance having introduced e-voting was unconstitutional because it did not "ensure that only such voting machines are permitted and used which meet the constitutional requirements of the principle of the public nature of elections."

Also the court considered that, differently from the traditional voting system where manipulations and frauds are much more difficult involving a high degree of effort and a high risk of detection, "programming errors in the software or deliberate electoral fraud committed by manipulating the software of electronic voting machines can be recognised only with difficulty." Also, in the court's opinion, the electors should be able to verify how their vote is recorded without having to possess detailed computer knowledge. "If the election result is determined through computer-controlled processing of the votes stored in an electronic memory, it is not sufficient if merely the result of the calculation process carried out in the voting machine can be taken note of by means of a summarising printout or an electronic display."

A campaign against electronic voting has been initiated by EDRi member Chaos Computer Club together with the Dutch foundation Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet (We don't trust voting computers) because of the risk of electronic errors and the potential for abuse.

After a group of hackers had succeeded in tampering with similar machines in the Netherlands in 2006, the Dutch Government imposed a moratorium on the use of electronic voting machines and Ireland also has banned electronic voting.

German Court Rules E-Voting Unconstitutional (3.03.2009),,4069101,00.html

Federal Constitutional Court - Press release on Use of voting computers in 2005 Bundestag election unconstitutional (3.03.2009)

Voting machines unconstitutional in Germany (3.03.2009)

EDRi-gram: Electronic voting machines eliminated in the Netherlands (24.10.2007)



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