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Finland: Pilot E-Voting System

(Mar. 2, 2008) In October 2008, Finland will pilot a new electronic voting system, based on the "Direct Recording Electronic" system of TietoEnator Finland, an information technology services company, and Scytl, a Spanish back-end provider. In February, in response to an inquiry about the system from the digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi), the Ministry of Justice stated that the documentation on its specific details must be kept secret based on the Act on the Openness of Government Activities. Under the latter, documents on the system's information security and those on a private company's trade secrets (in this case, the system provider's) must be kept secret.

According to an analysis Effi has made, based on high-level documents provided by the Ministry of Justice and a U.S. patent granted to Scytl, the system will not use any voter-verified paper ballots (in contrast to the e-voting systems of 30 U.S. states) or even the electronic receipt system set forth in the Scytl patent. As currently proposed, it is argued, the Finnish e-voting system would make recounts independent of that system impossible. It would also facilitate alteration of the election results by "a much smaller team of individuals …, as the software, which counts the ballots, is not public and its integrity would probably be only checked by consultants contracted by the Ministry of Justice." (Finnish E-Voting System Is a Trade Secret (Feb 7, 2008), NEWSLETTER MARCH 2008, available at [citing to STATEWATCH NEWS ONLINE].)

In the current Finnish election process, representatives of the competing political parties at each polling station carry out, manually and collectively, the widely distributed ballot. Each station's results are individually published, giving the representatives the opportunity to cross-check the tally for correctness. A separate count of the ballots, independent of the original, is done again and archived should further recounts be necessary. The system is described as "quite fast, providing results in a matter of hours from the whole country, easy to understand, and very resilient." (Id.)