[E-voting] France: Voting machines a 'catastrophe'--French parties

Catherine Ansbro cansbro at eircom.net
Mon May 14 21:29:20 IST 2007

France: Voting machines a 'catastrophe'--French parties

by Michel Sailhan, Agence France-Presse 
April 23rd, 2007

PARIS--Several French political parties demanded the withdrawal of 
electronic voting machines for the second round of the presidential 
election after widespread problems during Sunday's ballot.
The Socialists, the Communist Party and the Greens put on a rare show of 
unity to call the machines, used for around 1.5 million of France's 44.5 
million voters, a "catastrophe."

It is the first time the machines have been used for a presidential 
election in France. Amid big queues in general to vote, people using the 
electronic machines were forced to wait up to two hours to cast ballots.

The left wing parties complained following problems at Noisy-le-Sec, a 
suburb east of Paris.

"In line with our forecasts, the electronic vote has been a 
catastrophe," the parties said in a statement. They said that many 
voters had walked away in disgust because of the wait.

Protests came from other cities as well.

Philippe de Villiers, a nationalist Catholic candidate in the election, 
called it a "cheating machine" as he voted in his home town of Herbiers 
in western France.

Daniel Guerin, a member of the Paris regional council, made an official 
complaint to the Constitutionl Council because of "disfunctioning" 
machines in his constituency in Villeneuve-le-Roi, in the Paris suburbs.

The elderly had particular problems with the machines. Many said they 
did not believe the computerised system would keep their vote secret.

"I have come here twice and twice I have had to walk away without 
voting. It takes too long," said Pierre Bascoulergue, a pensioner in 
Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris. "I just don't trust these machines."

The Issy town hall said the long queues were because of the huge turnout 
in the election.

In the champagne capital of Reims in eastern France a breakdown delayed 
the start of computer voting. The complicated machines further held up 
voting in the city during the day.

"It is total chaos, we don't understand anything," said 70-year-old 
Suzanne Antoine.

"You put your card in and it says 'continue'. Then nothing lights up. I 
managed to finish but I prefer the way it was before."

Researchers at Paul Verlaine University in Metz said that trials on two 
of the three machines used in France showed that four people out of 
every seven aged over 65 could not get their votes recorded.

Researcher Gabriel Michel, a psychologist, said the machines posed 
"enormous problems."

The computer has several buttons that allow electors to choose the 
candidate they want to back. There is also an "abstention" button for 
protest votes.

The interior ministry says the machines are not French but they have not 
had any problems since they were first used in 2003.


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