Severe problems and irregularities occurred during Sunday's election for the state government in the German state of Hesse, where NEDAP voting computers were operated.
In addition to massive obstructions of the election observers in several communities, a number of incidents have clearly disproved the claims of Hesse's ministry of the interior about the security and reliability of the voting computers.
In at least one community the voting computers were stored in the private homes of political party members over night. This is an established practice, members of the regulating authority confirmed towards the election observers. All nine voting computers had been stored privately in this community.
The storing of voting computers over night at the homes of local politicians is the nightmare scenario for insider manipulation, even according to the logic of the Hesse ministry of the interior. This is something even we couldn't have imagined, said Dirk Engling speaking for Chaos Computer Club (CCC).
Election observers of the CCC were left alone for a long time in two polling stations, before the voting executive arrived. Manipulation of the election could have been easily accomplished by anyone left alone with the voting computers.
In at least one polling station the NEDAP technology failed; a voting computer in Viernheim showed an error message shortly after the startup a few minutes before 8 o'clock. A normal vote was therefore impossible. It took over an hour until a replacement computer arrived at the polling station. During this time many voters were not able to vote and effectively disenfranchised.
In Obertshausen interested citizens were refused admittance to the polling station by an employee of the regulating authority and election observers were even threatened with arrest.
The election supervisor in Obertshausen obviously hasn't heard anything of things such as openness and the legally warranted publicity of an election, CCC speaker Dirk Engling commented. Some election supervisors actively tried to prevent an observation of the election in its operation.
Observations from over 50 interested citizens showed that a large number of older voters had problems casting their ballot on the computers, contrary to the claims in the run-up to the election. Many were so overwhelmed, that election helpers had to assist them with the casting of their ballot.
The CCC also visited the people in charge of voting in the hessian communities which had decided against using voting computers after a testing phase. CCC activists brought biscuits to the election volunteers in the polling stations during the counting. In the process they got interesting insights into the reasons for the rejection of the NEDAP voting computers.
In previous elections, the town of Weiterstadt has used voting computers. We were among the first who introduced voting computers. But after the first election we experienced that the effort in preparing the election was too large, Mr. Gerald Eberlein, voting supervisor of Weiterstadt, said. I just had the feeling it was insecure, he said justifying the move away from the disputed computers.
In Erzhausen the ballots were also casted on paper in the traditional manner. We had rented the computers due to the counting and vote-splitting during our local elections, but the promised saving of time didn't happen, it just got more expensive. That's why we changed back to paper, Dieter Karl, Mayor of Erzhausen, told the CCC. The advantages promised by the commercial supplier of NEDAP voting computers simply did not materialise.
The discussion about the practical issues around voting computers shows that they not save labor, but also mean more costs and time for the communities, allow unnoticed manipulation of the result and cause major problems for senior citizens potentially disenfranchising a segment of the population.
Many violations of procedures were noticed by the election observers, and the reliability problems of the NEDAP systems make it clear once more, that the basic problems of voting computers: the inability to verify the correct operation and transparency of the election. Neither voters nor election helpers were able to validate the correctness of the ballot-casting and counting. A subsequent recounting is therefore simply not possible.
The observation of the election in Hesse shows that the time has definitely come to withdraw the voting computers also in Germany, said Dirk Engling. Especially in the light of the tight outcome of the election in Hesse the unacceptable risks of computer mediated voting become very clear.
The CCC would like to thank all election observers for their commitment to upholding the democratic process!