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First online election in France tarnished by reports of fraud

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hotel de ville paris (flickr edwin lee)
hotel de ville paris (flickr edwin lee)

France’s first online election was marred this week when reporters found that the supposedly fraud-proof system could be easily gamed, letting people vote multiple times in an important primary for the office of Paris Mayor. According to The Independent, the revelation has led to "an explosion of name-calling" within France’s center-right UMP party, and calls from one of its candidates, Pierre-Yves Bournazel, to abandon the primary altogether.

They could register to vote multiple times, even using the same mobile number and credit card

In order to register to elect the UMP's candidate for mayor, Parisians needed a name, some basic personal information like date of birth and marital status, a phone number, and a credit card for paying the requisite €3 fee to vote online. Reporters working for France’s Metronews discovered that, armed with only someone’s name and information, they could register to vote multiple times, even using the same mobile number and credit card information. One of the journalists even managed to vote five times, once using the name of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The specter of fraud looms large following allegations of ballot stuffing in an election for the UMP's presidential candidate in the fall, amplified by the fact that Bournazel is running on an anti-gay-marriage platform. The vulnerability also highlights the difficulty in designing electronic voting systems, although this case seems like a particularly glaring oversight. Elsewhere, the New York City Board of Elections announced plans last week to get rid of its new electronic scanners in favor of redeploying 30-year-old mechanical lever machines in two upcoming elections, citing the need for a quick turnaround.