Quebec says no to e-voting

Quebec City, where the report was announced
Quebec City, where the report was announced

Almost exactly a year ago, I reported on the problems and uncertain results of the Quebec municipal elections. Problems included 45,000 votes being counted twice and results having to be modified in some districts and changing the winner of one contest. It was a slow, messy and controversial mess with the losing candidate for Montreal mayor calling for the results to be cancelled.

Michel Monette of e-democracy blog emailed me to let me know about what has happened since (Thanks Michel!).

Quebec’s chief electoral officer, Marcel Blanchet, has delivered a scathing report on the election with the result that an e-voting moratorium will remain in place indefinitely. Blanchet said that the systems “[do] not offer sufficient guarantees of transparency and security to ensure the integrity of the vote” and he could not be sure that the 2005 election results were accurate. His report found that:

  • Electronic voting cost as much as 25% more than ‘regular voting’
  • Machines misread ballots
  • The lack of paper ballots prevented judicial recounts
  • Poor management of voting systems (especially lack of security measures) left considerable room for errors, accidents and the absence or insufficiency of solutions in case of problems
  • Absence of technical specifications, norms and standards that would have guaranteed the quality and the security of the voting systems used
  • Machines were only partially tested in places
  • Election personnel were not adequately trained
  • There were no independent experts on electronic voting to whom returning officers could turn

These findings are important and relevant to all countries looking at electronic voting.

The Chief Electoral Officer also set out strict guidelines for use if e-voting were ever to return. These guidelines included mandating that all source code should be made available to ‘competent authorities’. He also slipped in the ruling out of using all-postal or even widespread postal ballots in Quebec.

So, for now, e-voting has been stopped in Quebec. Are the lessons starting to be learnt?