Repeal law on voting machines once and for all

June 18, 2010
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

This website reported last year that a company from India that manufactured electronic voting machines or direct recording equipment (DRE) were trying to market the equipment to other countries, including Singapore. The SDP had warned that these machines were highly unreliable and open to fraudulent use.

Our fears are confirmed. Recent reports have shown that votes can be stolen through the implanted devices. Researchers from India, the US and the Netherlands have demonstrated that such attacks can be initiated wirelessly from a mobile phone. (See here and here)
Dutch analyst Rop Gonggrijp warns:

Never mind what election officials say, this research once again shows that the longstanding scientific consensus holds true—DRE voting machines are fundamentally vulnerable…Computers can be programmed to count votes honestly, but since nobody can watch them, they might just as easily be programmed to count dishonestly. How is the voter supposed to tell the difference?

The Elections Department has not signalled any intention to use DREs in this elections. This, however, does not mean that the machines cannot be introduced any time before the GE.

In fact, the law is in place for the Government to resort to DREs at anytime before the next elections – no debate, no discussion reuired. The Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA) provides for the use of the equipment. All it needs is just the approval of the auditor-general or any person appointed by a minister. (See here)

Although there are conditions to be met before approval can be given to use DREs, such as in Section 50(A)2(f) of the PEA which says that the machines must be “safe from fraudulent or unauthorised manipulation or operation”), there is no provision for independent verification outside of Government circles that the equipment is reliable.

All the PEA requires is for the auditor-general or the appointed person to test the machines not earlier than four days before polling day. In other words, the PAP Government could still procure the equipment and use them for this elections if it decides to.

Its not hard to see that the legislation is so full of holes that it would be impossible to prevent manipulation of the machines to steal elections. For example, how does the Government satisfy the people that it can definitively prevent fraudulent operation of the machines apart from just declaring them to be safe?

It is obvious that the idea of using electronic equipment instead of the traditional paper and pencil to register votes should be tossed out. To be sure, DREs may come in handy when a country is big and the infrastructure does not facilitate balloting and vote-counting through traditional means.

In Singapore’s case, however, we are physically small enough that that manual voting and counting of votes present absolutely no problem. There is simply no rationale and justification to turn to electronic voting.

The provisions of the PEA allowing for DREs must be repealed immediately.