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Supreme Administrative court orders new municipal elections for Vihti, Karkkila, and Kauniainen
Flaws in electronic voting trial lead to new poll
In a ruling handed down on Thursday, the Supreme Administrative Court has ordered that new municipal elections should be held in Vihti, Karkkila, and Kauniainen.
In last October's municipal elections, electronic voting was given a trial run in these three communities.
The experiment was not a complete success, and a total of more than 200 votes went uncounted because of a technical glitch.
The Supreme Administrative Court overruled an earlier decision in January by the Helsinki Administrative Court.
Now steps must be taken without delay to arrange a new election for the three councils concerned.
As has been reported in earlier editions (see links below), a total of 61 votes were lost in Kauniainen, 122 in Vihti, and 49 in Karkkila.
Complaints were filed with the Helsinki Administrative Court, but the court rejected the demands for new elections, charging that whilst there had been shortcomings in the design, implementation, and function of the electronic voting system, there were no mistakes in the instructions that voters were given, even though there would be room for improvement.
Four appeals were lodged against the January decision with the Supreme Administrative Court, involving 16 plaintiffs.
The SAC took a stiffer view of the shortcomings, stating that in the view of the judges the written instructions to voters that accompanied the material sent to homes in the three areas was inadequate and contributed to the problems some voters had in navigating the voting process at the machines.
There was also an error in the actual voting system, and the Supreme Administrative Court took the line that the measures taken in preparing the electronic voting trial were unlawful, and the elections were therefore invalid.
The Court stated that the errors could have affected the outcome of the elections, when one takes into consideration the number of unregistered voting cases.
The errors are such that it is not possible to merely adjust the results after the fact.
All three SAC decisions were reached after a vote, with one of the judges opining that the instructions as given were sufficiently clear and detailed.
Voters also had the option to make use of a helper at the polling station, and could choose whether to take part in the electronic voting experiment or cast their ballot in the normal manner.
Arranging a re-run of a municipal election is extremely rare in Finland.
The most recent case where the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that voters should have a second try came in Keminmaa in 1996, following postal problems.
In 1980, elections were repeated in Humppila, and in 1972 they had to be repeated in the northern community of Enontekiö.
The Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (Greens) has said that the new elections in Karkkila, Kauniainen, and Vihti will cost around EUR 130,000.
Brax added that the ministry will consider whether it is possible to provide the communities concerned with some assistance in meeting these costs. According to law, the communities themselves should pay for arranging municipal elections. Brax expressed her satisfaction with the Court's decision, which sets stiff demands for any future experiments of this kind. The Ministry of Justice will seek to produce a report on electronic voting by Midsummer, after which it will go to the whole government for deliberation.