Position on electronic voting

Note: published on February 2, 2008

Although the subject of electronic voting is not directly the core of the object of the association (promoting and defending free software), the April took position when free software was concerned, and because of the democratic issue introduced by the voting computers: the interview below describes why the April is opposed to electronic voting within the frame of the institutional elections and why the use of free software is not sufficient to make electronic voting acceptable. The opening of the code does not allow every citizen to verify the functioning of a voting computer, because it would imply that every citizen is an expert in computing; thus, the citizen has no longer the means to check the progress of the election and of the vote counting process. Besides, the publication of the code does not imply that it is indeed the one really used or that the software and the equipment work correctly.

The association uses electronic voting for its internal elections: electronic vote is problematic when the anonymity must be protected (if every voter can verify who voted for what, each can verify that his(her) vote is correctly taken into account and check the progress of the election); in the cases where the vote by a show of hands is acceptable, electronic voting is possible (system administrators can know what everyone has voted, and voters should have confidence in them). Moreover, the stakes are not at all comparable.

Interview of May 9, 2007 Frédéric Couchet, general delegate of April, published on the site of the Federation of Associations of Science and Information Technology (ASTI). Source: http://asti.ibisc.univ-evry.fr/actualite-frederic-couchet

The association spoke on electronic voting when free software was presented as the solution to all problems. Thus at the 6th e-democracy Forum in Issy-les-Moulineaux in September 2005, we refused to sign the call "For a free electronic democracy" which also spoke of electronic voting.

All the major associations of free software had indeed done the same at the time. If we are obviously in favour of using free software in governments, administrations and communities, we reject the idea that free software is a sufficient condition to electronic voting, it is only a necessary condition: it must indeed ensure five principles , transparency, privacy, anonymity, sincerity, unity, and more generally gain the voters' confidence in the electoral system, allowing verification of the ballot by every citizen.

APRIL has been using electronic voting for its internal decision-making for several years. At our last general meeting in February 2007, the topic of electronic voting has been discussed, some members were expecting that APRIL intervene more extensively on the subject. The discussion is under way with members favourable to electronic voting (under certain conditions) and other opposed to it.

The voting computers currently in use in France for institutional elections (presidential and legislative like those in 2007) are opaque and not verifiable, therefore we are obviously opposed to electronic voting in these conditions.

Our initiative Candidats.fr, which asked the presidential candidates' opinion on the open-source software and on related subjects, also relayed the questionnaire of the association Computer-vote.org.. The responses show that there is no unanimity in the political class on the subject.

Since May 2007, the APRIL attends the working group "Electronic voting and modernization of the electoral process" which aims to update a recommendation of the FDI (2003) on "the future of the electronic voting in France".