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Newsletter 2 - 31 July 2006

From Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet

"Yes, there is an election going on here. Now get the hell off our company property, or I'll release the dog!"

Sdu wants to "retract publication" !

Oh my goodness, such a lot is happening! First we received a mail from our contact at the Amsterdam local council, who was afraid that maybe they had given us a bit too much. Subsequently we got mail from the sollicitor of Sdu, producers of the NewVote election system. Mr Frederik van Nouhuys van De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek confirmed that Sdu did indeed want documents to disappear from our website:

At issue here is that the council of Amsterdam has responded to your FOAI
request by supplying you with four documents that should have been rejected
under dutch FOAI law. Contracts and offers are among documents that contain
company-confidential information and are thus protected. Also the city of 
Amsterdam agreed upon confidentiality with the parties concerned. For that 
reason the local council has been asked to roll back publication of these
documents, a request which was relayed to you today. At issue are the contract,
both offers and the document called "procedures". Sdu assumes that you will be
forgiving where these documents are concerned, and that you will remove said
documents from your website.

Naturally we are not removing the documents

Formally we are not the publishers of the information, the city of Amsterdam is. That there may have been ground to refuse publication of a number of these documents, or even that one document contains a confidentiality agreement does not alter the fact that public for one person is legally the same as public for all. And we wouldn't be worth our wits as activists if we removed the documents without a fight. Sdu's lawyers must know they have no case, or they would have threatened us with all sorts of legal trouble by now. If anything this is an interesting legal problem between the city of Amsterdam and her supplier Sdu, which might lead to interesting documents to be FOIA'd at a later time.

Amsterdam elections more expensive: 3 Euro per voter !

The documents we got as a result of our FOAI request show beyond a doubt that voting on computers really is much more expensive that voting on paper. An overview that was created specifically for our FOAI request (Pdf icon.png pdf) clearly debunks the myth that computers somehow make elections cheaper.

In 2002 the costs for the dual local election that elected both the city council and the councils for the different burroughs totalled 1,556,432 Euro. In 2006, after electronic voting was introduced, the same dual election cost 2,674,770 Euro, a difference of more than a million Euro. In 2006 305,234 votes were cast, which means Amsterdammers pay more than 3 Euro per vote more than they used to. Most of that money flows directly to Sdu. Elections have quietly become big business.

Sdu NewVote: Total control over our elections

It's all quite a bit worse than we expected. Computer-expert and software developer Pascal Scheffers has taken a first look at the released documents that describe NewVote, Sdu's election system. He rightly notes that we really should be analysing a working version of the entire system, and that such a fast scan of some documents is always limited. But his preliminary conclusions are nonetheless frightening. The elections have truly been outsourced. At this moment the local council does not control anything between the voting computer and the election results: not only the computers are supplied by Sdy, but the entire process is managed by Sdu.

Looking at the details reveals some scary stuff. To gain a few minutes, they have turned off the virus scanner (!) on the same PC that receives lists of candidates on floppy-disks.

Also alarming: if we wait just a bit then absolutely nothing is left under the countrol of city employees anymore: in future all programs that count and total the votes will run on computers at Sdu and city employees just get to blindly nod at the results at the end of the day.

Our article (dutch) describes the above issues in more detail. The next months are bound to see more revelations about inner workings of the systems of both Sdu and Nedap.

We need whistleblowers

We've been nosing around for a while, and boy does this whole election-industry smell stuffy. Government bodies and private companies are doing secret things in hidden corners and the stuff that does get to light looks rotten. It's time that we, the citizens, open the curtains and windows to let some light and fresh air in. Unfortunately there are limits to what the FOIA can expose about our public election. Please check out our whistleblower support page (dutch)