Errors in electronic voting could lead to new elections in three communities
The Helsinki Administrative Court is taking up an appeal made over the municipal elections in the town of Vihti in southern Finland.
In electronic voting, which was implemented in Vihti and two other communities on a trial basis in last month's local elections, 122 votes were lost. Similar problems were experienced in the two other communities - Kauniainen and Karkkila. A combined 232 votes failed to be registered in electronic voting.
The appeal was filed by Social Democratic candidate Ilkka Tanner, who got eight votes in Vihti, and did not get into the city council there.
“I do not do this for myself, but rather out of principle. And we must remember that the number of votes also affects the number of seats on municipal boards.”
Tanner says that the lost votes have affected the political balance of power, and have influenced who got into the local council. The lowest number of votes with which a candidate was elected to the Vihti council was 77.
The administrative Court does not mete out fines or prison terms - it simply rules on appeals. However, if an election official has neglected his or her official duties, a separate criminal trial is possible.
The court process could lead to new elections in Vihti, if the court decides that election officials have acted unlawfully, and if the action can be seen to have affected the outcome.
Sami Manninen, a top official at the Ministry of Justice, says that no partial elections can be held partially, by restricting them to those voters who voted electronically (and not by absentee ballot, for instance). “A new election is a new election”, he says.
Of Vihti’s more than 20,000 eligible voters, nearly 12,000 cast their ballots in the municipal elections, and of those, about 1,600 voted electronically.
If the elections are repeated, the same candidates and the same lists of eligible voters would be used that were in force in the municipal elections. A notice of the elections would be mailed to the homes of the voters, and there would also be a period of advance voting.
Helsinki Administrative Court will handle the case as an urgent matter, because the result of the elections cannot be officially confirmed before the appeal is processed.
The court’s secretary, Kaija Ikäläinen, estimates that the process could take about two months.
“The aim is to get a decision this year, but it might go into next year as well.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Minister of Justice says future of electronic voting remains open (30.10.2008)
Over 200 electronic votes disappeared (29.10.2008)