I received an email from the Gemeente Amsterdam today in relation to my question over the availability of the source code of the voting application.
The response has left me cold. Even though it is not unexpected.
The conversation I have had follows in chronological order;
Hoi. As a resident of Amsterdam I am participating in next weeks verkiezingen. However I am concerned over the validity of electronic voting. Will the source code for the voting application be made available to the public for scrutiny to allay any concerns that may be present?
the reply was succinct;
Geachte heer Gray,
De gebruikte software wordt al sinds 1998 in vele Nederlandse gemeenten gebruikt bij de organisatie van verkiezingen en heeft, weliswaar niet openbaar, zijn betrouwbaarheid inmiddels bewezen.
Ik hoop dat bovenstaande voor u aanleiding is om op 7 maart uw stem uit te brengen.
P.S. Ik hoop dat u de Nederlandse taal kunt lezen, zo niet dan wil iemand uit uw omgeving het misschien vertalen.
Met vriendelijke groet,
Gemeente Amsterdam Dienst Persoonsgegevens
Telefoon 020 *** ****
Apart from the usual annoyance of them getting my name completely wrong, even though it is displayed in large red letters in the attached email, my rough translation is far more disturbing.
Dear Mr Gray,
The software used has since 1998 in many Dutch City Councils been used in the organisation of elections and has, even though it is not publicly available, been proven to be reliable.
I hope that the above is good enough so that you cast your vote on the 7th March
P.S. I hope that you can read Dutch, if not then possibly you can get someone closeby to translate.
Amsterdam City Council Personal Information Service.
Telefoon 020 *** ****
The problem I have with this is that the previous paper based system was completely open.
As a citizen I could, should the peculiar desire take me, ask to be part of the process.
From making sure the closed boxes are secure to actually participating in the counting of the votes.
Countries where this process is not transparent, and available for scrutiny to people outside the government itself, are considered undemocratic.
A good example is Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
It had elections, and returned an astounding support rating of 99%, but most people would not consider it a democracy, as the process was closed and therefore open to corruption.
With electronic voting the process is in the code, as the manual process of tallying the votes is automated.
Only by making the source code open to public scrutiny can the electorate truly trust it.
Having a civil servant tell me that, basically, “The software, that you are not allowed to see, works because others have used it” does not suffice.
This problem has been accepted and addressed by the Australian government by making all the source code available.
Why can’t other governments around the world see this?
Why do they try placate us with, “Trust us. The system works. But you CAN NOT SEE IT!“
I will still vote on Tuesday.
But it has been in effect made meaningless by the Gemeente Amsterdams Neanderthal like decision of security through obscurity.