ODIHR is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in
Europe (http://www.osce.org/odihr/) It was invited by the Dutch
government to observe the working of the last parliamentary
elections (of november 2006) against a background of mounting
criticism regarding the near-universal use of voting computers
in the Netherlands. This critique was largely spawned and
fueled by the group (now a foundation) We Do Not Trust Voting
Computers (http://www.wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet.nl/English).
The following is a translation of the item
about ODIHR in the group's last newsletter.
maart_2007) (in Dutch)


Oh Dear ....

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has as acronym
ODIHR, usually pronouced "Oh Dear", and one of its activities it
carries for the 53 member states of the OSCE is to observe elections
and oversee the fairness and correctness of electoral procedures.
Quite understandably, the emphasis is on so-called 'new democracies'
where those in power have a tendency to be somewhat creative with the
democratic process if they possibly can get away with it.

We have written in a previous newsletter about the rather critical
report ODIHR's Election Assessment Mission had submitted about the
last Dutch parliamentary elections. ODIHR has now observed a number of
elections where voting took place with voting computers or over the
Internet. As the organisation now realises that e-voting nd i-voting
may potentially present grave problems as far as the controlability of
the election process is concerned, it convened a working meeting with
representatives of countries, electoral observers teams and external
experts. This took place on March 22-23, and Rop Gonggrijp attended it
for the 'wedonottrustvotingcomputers' foundation.

"It was quite a learning experience to come to know people who are
familiar with the election process of so many countries. A number
of participants were apparently still on the track that e-voting
without a paper trail is perfectly controlable - if you go by the
documentation accompanying certification papers and that sort of
things. But in backroom discussions it appeared that the realisation
is dawning that black box e-voting could be a boon for some big shots
in some 'new democracies', saving them the inconveniance of dead
journalists, banged-up opposition candidates and 'disapeared' ballot
boxes - and that they might discover this rather sooner than later;"

The meeting's discussion focused on a document that mainly attempts
to establish a check-list of sorts for observation teams to use
when monitoring e-voting systems. Introduction of a paper trail
is mentioned as one of the measures that might lead to a better
controlability. Our group has requested that paper trail be given a
more prominent and separate place and to define and distinguish two
categories of e-voting. We do hope that the discussion will continue
inside ODIHR, and that what has come out of this study will translate
in new, additional directives.

Q&D translation by patrice riemens

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