Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Electronic machines worry voters

For anyone who followed the 2000 US presidential election in Florida, the problem of "hanging chads" will forever be seared in our memories. Electronic voting was supposed to solve this, eliminating once and for all any ambiguity in a person's vote.

Yet as anyone who followed the 2004 election knows, electronic voting machines and their reliability have eclipsed even the hanging chads in controversy. And so is the case with France.

“The fear shown by numerous voters faced with a system they don’t know runs the risk of keeping them away from the polls,” the Socialist Party said in a communiqué on Friday, adding that the risks of fraud and of “massive and undetectable errors” are very real.

François Bayrou, the centrist candidate from the Union for French Democracy party, said last month that it was necessary to “stop this evolution and suspend all use” of electronic voting, because the vote would not be completely reliable.

Luckily, some towns are doing dress rehearsals:

Last week in Reims, the capital of the Champagne region and one of the largest towns to sign on to electronic voting, 100,000 registered voters were given the opportunity to try the machines.

Only a small number of voters showed up. They voted on what kind of tree — june berry, golden bamboo, magnolia, photinia or rhododendron — should be planted on a main avenue undergoing renovation. No irregularities were reported. City Hall has yet to announce the winner.

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