Re-evaluation of the Use of Electronic Voting in the Netherlands

The Netherlands in 2006 decided to re-evaluate the use of electronic voting technologies after the system in use came under criticism for security and other reasons. To facilitate this process, the nation’s parliament created commissions to investigate how past decisions on the approval of voting machines had been made and to review the organization of the election process. The findings of both commissions strongly criticized the government’s management of voter technologies, and subsequently the government abandoned electronic voting, returning to paper-based voting.

Following decades of using electronic technologies in elections in the Netherlands, such technologies came under heavy criticism in 2006. In response to the publicizing of concerns about the lack of security and auditability mechanisms in the country’s electronic voting machines by a group of computer experts called “We Do Not Trust Voting Computers” (described in more detail in Figure 14 above), the parliament requested that the government establish two independent commissions to consider the past and future of electronic voting. 

The Voting Machines Decision-making Commission was tasked with reviewing how decisions on the approval of voting machines had been made in the past and what lessons could be learned. In its April 2007 report “Voting Machines:  An Orphaned File,” the commission was critical of the government’s past role in electronic voting, concluding that (1) voting machines did not receive enough attention; (2) the Ministry of Interior lacked technical knowledge, resulting in officials becoming overly dependent on external actors, including technology vendors; and (3) the government did not react to signs that should have raised concern. The report also concluded that certification and testing of the voting machines was based on outdated standards and that reports from these tests should have been made public. The report noted that the legal framework did not adequately address the specifics of electronic voting, particularly the security requirements.

A second commission, the Election Process Advisory Commission, was set up to evaluate the organization of the election process and to make recommendations for future elections. In its September 2007 report “Voting with Confidence,” the commission noted that requirements for election-related equipment had not been adequately established and that the security and management of the equipment were not properly regulated. It also noted that the electronic voting machines in use were not sufficiently transparent and verifiable. The commission concluded that all municipalities should have the same method of voting and that voting by paper ballot would be the most appropriate method. 

The government acted quickly in the wake of the release of the commissions’ reports. Within a year of release of the Election Process Advisory Commission’s report, the government had decided that voting and counting in the Netherlands would fully return to paper-based, manual processes.

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