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Flemish voting machines to run on Linux operating system

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The new voting machines to be used by the government of Flanders, Belgium, will use the Linux open source operating system, according to a report by Binnenband, a magazine targeting Flanders' public administrations.

The machine itself contains no software at all, no hard disk and only a few bytes of flash memory. For each election, a tailored Linux operating software and the list of candidates is loaded on a USB drive.

Immediately after the elections, the data on the USB drive is transmitted to a central system, using a different computer. "This improves the previous procedure, where aggregation was done in several rounds of copying data to floppy disks."

The machines were tried out on 27 October last year. "Voters who volunteered to test the machines requested improvements to the way the machines scanned the ballots. They also asked for easier control buttons."

The voting machines are made by Smartec, a US-based firm that also builds voting machines for other countries, including the US, Venezuela and The Philippines. Nearly all of the machine's software has been redeveloped several times to comply to the Belgian requirements, according to the magazine.

The article briefly reviews several other European voting computers. In the Netherlands, the use of voting computers was scrapped after activists showed that two types of voting computers in use both had serious security flaws. In the UK there have been several pilots, including for voting over the Internet, via mobile phones and by using digital TV. "These never made it to large scale projects." In Germany there are several local projects using computers for voting. In total about two million of the country's 82 million inhabitants can vote using a computer. Here too an action group successfully protested against computer voting to be implemented in Hamburg in 2008.

More information:
Opengov news item (in Dutch)
Binnenband March 2012 (pdf, in Dutch)

Information

Geographic coverage:
Belgium
Themes:
Communications