Protest against voting machine
12 July 2006 – The current voting machines
are unverifiable as well as superfluous. We must therefore return
to voting with paper and pencil, says Rop Gonggrijp, founder of
the XS4ALL internet provider. With other people, he has launched
the municipal elections of last March, Amsterdam was one of the
last municipalities to switch to the voting machine. At the campaign
website, this is mentioned as one of the reasons to start a campaign
now: “A number of people behind this site are Amsterdammers.
And perhaps you first have to vote with a computer to realise how
serious it all is”.
Gonggrijp: “Critics now try to brand us as a Grachtengordel
initiative [the term refers to the elites living in the city centre
– Ed.], but that is not correct. The point is that ten, twenty
years ago, it was nearly impossible to get people to understand
what is wrong with voting machines. As a result of stories from
America, they now get the idea”.
In America, many voting machines are sold by Diebold, a company
whose CEO is an important contributor to Republican campaign funds.
Also, critics say that its computers are not properly protected
Gonggrijp does not want to suggest that there would be anything
wrong with the Dutch suppliers of voting machines. “I think
they have the best intentions. But I do not want to be dependent
on the good intentions of a company. What is more, what will happen
if Diebold decides to buy them?”
Objections against the voting machine include the impossibility
to verify the results, because the source code of the software is
secret and because there is no paper trail. There are indications
that a member of a polling committee at a polling station in Zeeland
may have committed fraud.
In addition, many people need assistance when voting with a computer.
“The number of incidents has risen alarmingly”, says
Gonggrijp. “People, when helping each other, may influence
each other’s voting behaviour. Also, there have been reports
about members of polling committees looking over the shoulder at
how people vote”.
The Amsterdam Ombudsman has started an investigation of incidents
in the Bos en Lommer district. The report should contribute to improved
procedures at the next elections. “Voting is something you
do on your own!”, he says in a column.
Gonggrijp thinks that it is not feasible from a practical point
of view to switch to the voting pencil at the 22 November Parliamentary
elections, but it should be possible at the Provincial elections
in March 2007. That it will take longer for the election results
to become known is not a problem: this will only make the elections
Meanwhile, the municipality has sold the ballot boxes and has decided
to have the voting pencils turned into a work of art. Is this not
a waste, if we have to get rid of the computer? Gonggrijp: “The
costs of pencils and ballot boxes are a fraction of what it costs
to vote with a computer, so that is not the problem. And fortunately,
the municipality has not bought the computers but leases them”.
The latter is the result of an amendment passed in 2004 by the
city council, in which the municipality was told not to spend money
on voting machines yet. The municipality was also called upon to
promote that open source software for voting machines is made available.
One of the sponsors of the amendment was social-democrat council
member Tijs Reuten. In retrospect, he says that the amendment did
yield results: “The municipality was planning to buy voting
machines. After the discussion in the council, it was decided to
lease them, with the intention of switching as soon as certified
voting machines with open source software become available”.
Gonggrijp thinks this is not sufficient: he wants a return to the
voting pencil. A campaign website has been opened, where buttons,
t-shirts and mugs can be ordered. Also, people will be called upon
to express a ‘polite protest’ at the polling station.
“The polling committee will be obliged to include this in
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