Finnish e-voting fiasco: votes lost

[29th Oct 2008 Updated the e-voting interface link to point to the English version]
[29th Oct 2008 Edited to add a report of touchscreen issues]

A fully electronic voting system was piloted in the Finnish municipal elections on the 26th of October, 2008.

Electronic Frontier Finland (EFFI) had criticised the pilot program for years, recently [link||releasing a report on its deficiencies].

Today, the [link||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 voter to insert a smart card to identify the voter, 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 Ministry of Justice instructions, which [link||specifically said] that in order to cancel the voting process, the user should click on “cancel” and after that, remove the smart card. Thus, some voters did not realise that their vote had not been registered.

[Added 29th Oct:] There has now been at least [link||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 [link||press release] (in Finnish) arguing for the legal basis of a re-election. According to Finnish election law, this would require a decision from the Administrative Court.

A Flash demo of the e-voting user interface is [link||available] on the Ministry of Justice elections portal.