National

E-voting needs special
precautions, judge says

The threat of the unknown in using an electronic voting system in the parliamentary elections means special precautions must be taken to ensure the system is used effectively and complies with current voter rights, a German constitutional justice says.

Rudolf Mellinghoff, a panelist in a conference of Asian Constitutional Court judges in Jakarta on Wednesday, said a study should be carried out to see if  an election using an e-voting mechanism would comply with the electoral principles under the constitutional law.

This, he added, was “to ensure that there is no deficiency in the transfer of state authority to the representatives of the people, which is the first and most important element of the unbroken chain of legitimation from the people to the bodies and office-holders entrusted with state duties”.

“The casting of votes in parliamentary elections is the essential element of the formation of the political will from the people to the state bodies,” and thus is also the basis of political integration, he said.

Compliance with electoral principles that apply in this context and confidence in such compliance are, therefore, preconditions of a democracy that is able to function, he said.

Modern technology caused problems in 2000 election of US president George W. Bush. The US Central Intelligence Agency also found irregularities during elections in Venezuela, Mellinghoff said.

Researchers in Venezuela have doubted the validity of the results of a national referendum that allowed president Hugo Chavez to stand for re-election.

However, many countries have sung the praises of the electronic voting.

In 2004, 380 million Indians cast their votes using more than 1 million machines.

In a presidential election held in May this year, Philippine voters came to polling booths to cast their votes on a piece of paper, which were then fed into a machine for counting. That election, too, was considered a success.

Mellinghoff said the Germany Federal Constitutional Court had issued a ruling in March 2009 declaring the use of voting computers unconstitutional.

But that was not the case in Indonesia, where judges at the Constitutional Court in March this year approved the application of electronic voting in regional elections.

A regent of Jembrana, Bali has requested that the 2004 regional administration law calling for e-voting be used.

The regency administration successfully pioneered the use of e-voting in elections for village leaders last year. E-voting was tried during the elections for leaders of 31 hamlets in 18 villages throughout the regency. Voter turn was 65 percent on average.

The administration cut costs by 60 percent by eliminating ballot papers and boxes.

Justices at the court said regional elections could now use e-voting but only if the mechanism complied with the principles of an election and if the regions and its residents were able to use the technology.

Several legislators from the House of Representatives’ Commission II overseeing domestic affairs have said  voters’ choices would be recorded in the computers, and therefore would violate the principal of confidentiality in elections.

Mellinghoff said e-voting should allow for a reliable correctness check as a way to ensure a traceable procedure in elections.

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