Conference PaperPDF Available

Electronic Voting in Belgium: Past and Future



This paper provides an overview of the electronic and paper-based voting systems that are used in Belgium. It compares the advantages and disadvantages of these systems, and presents a selection of voting systems that have been recommended to the federal and regional governments for future elections in Belgium: an improved paper-based voting system with voter-verifiable paper trails, a family of optical scanning systems, a remote/Internet voting system, and a kiosk/intranet voting system.
7 December 2010 1eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future
Electronic Voting in Belgium
Past and Future
Danny De Cock
Slides available from
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 27 December 2010
Classic Electronic Voting System
Interesting Things to Know
Different Voting Channels
Real Voting Ballots
Requirements for (Belgian) Voting Systems
Voting using Magnetic Stripe Cards
Improved Paper-based Voting System
Requirements for Belgian Elections
Organizing Elections
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 37 December 2010
Classic Electronic Voting…
Introduced in 1991, pilots in 1994, large scale
deployment in 1999, currently 44% coverage
Standalone voting computers – not networked
Impossible to cast invalid vote – only valid or blank
Open-source software
Voter uses light pen to select candidates
Voting ballot encoded on magnetic stripe card
Ballot secrecy & integrity through cryptography
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 47 December 2010
Interesting Things to Know (ITK)
Voting is mandatory in Belgium
Everyone strictly older than 17 must go to the polling
Sanctions & Fines with respect to ignored voting duty:
Police court rules, no appeal possible
First offender: 50 Euro
Second offense: 125 Euro
4 offenses in less than 15 years: 10 years
revocation of
Voting rights
Right to become a civil servant
Possibility to get a promotion or distinction as a civil
7 Election types 7 Paper ballot forms
European, Federal (Chamber + Senate), Provincial,
Regional, Communal, Local Council
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 57 December 2010
Different Voting Channels
Uncontrolled environment
Pencil + paper
Postal vote – Belgian citizens living abroad
Internet voting – Nobody
Controlled environment
Pencil + paper
Voting booths
56%: mostly in Wallonia
Voting booths with offline voting machines
44%: Brussels, Flanders
Networked voting machines – Nobody
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 67 December 2010
Real Voting Ballots
46cm wide, 24.19cm high
18.11” x 9.45”
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 77 December 2010
Real Voting Ballots
50.41cm wide, 68.56cm high
19.69” x 26.78”
44.54cm wide, 52.61cm high
17.4” x 20.55”
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 87 December 2010
Real Voting Ballots
61.3cm wide, 86.68cm high
23.94” x 33.86”
49.54cm wide, 64.07cm high
19.35” x 25.03”
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 97 December 2010
1 Voting Ballot per Election (Chamber,
Senate, Regional, European Parliament,…)
Easily 1 meter
Easily 0.5 meter
Up to 88 Candidates Per List!
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 107 December 2010
ITK – Casting a Valid Vote
Number of elected
seats equals
number of List
votes + number of
votes of main
candidates +
number of votes of
Number of list
votes influences
the number of
elected candidates
per list
A ballot is
rendered invalid if
a voter ticks
candidates of more
than one list
Voter can also
tick any number
of successors
Voter can also
tick any number
of main candidates
Voter can tick
List Vote
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 117 December 2010
Electronic Representation of a Voting Ballot
Candidates are numbered
Large voting ballot is represented
electronically in two menus:
Party menu
Voter selects his/her party
Candidates Menu per party
Number of candidates determines the number of
Voter selects candidates or list
It is impossible to cast an invalid electronic voting
Voter can vote blank by choosing the “Blank party”
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 127 December 2010
Requirements for (Belgian) Voting Systems
Everybody can cast a vote
Everybody has just one vote
Everybody can cast his/her vote of his/her choice
Only the voter knows who he has voted for
All procedures are simple, publicly available and
Voting and counting systems are verifiable
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 137 December 2010
Voter can/cannot check voting ballot
Observer can/cannot check voting ballot
Voter can/cannot audit election
Observer can/cannot audit election
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 147 December 2010
Issues – Trustworthiness
Voting system =
Technology + People + Processes
Does the technology function correctly?
Did the voting officials validate the configuration?
Is the vote correctly recorded?
Is the vote correctly counted?
Is the election result correct?
Did independent auditors validate the elections?
Pop quiz:
Why would a voting system reflect the voter’s choice?
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 157 December 2010
Comparing (e)Voting Systems
Paper + Pencil
Well known, highly trusted
Current System (Magnetic Stripe Cards)
Good compromise to deal with complex
voting rules, mostly trusted
Improved Paper-based Voting
Best compromise, verifiable trustworthiness
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 167 December 2010
Paper + Pencil
Everybody understands how it works
Not everybody understand potential problems…
Easy to invalidate voting ballots
Sometimes hard to distinguish voting ballot marks
Not really anonymous
Physical traces on paper: fingerprints, scratches, stains,…
Voting ballots can grow large in some cantons
Costly preparation, printing and distribution of ballots
Counting is cumbersome and slow
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 177 December 2010
Components of Classic Electronic Polling
589 municipalities
44% of these use voting computers
Each municipality has one or more polling stations
Each polling station has one or more voting offices
Each polling office using electronic voting is equipped
5 or 6 voting booths, each with one voting computer
1 electronic urn to collect magnetic stripe ballots
1 computer associated with the president of the voting
About 20.000 voting computers in total
On average 300 voters per voting computer
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 187 December 2010
Classic Electronic Voting Booth
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 197 December 2010
Observations wrt Magnetic Stripe
Cards System
How to convince a voter that the magnetic
stripe card corresponds with the voter’s
Voting computer may have stored a different ballot
How to convince a voter that his/her vote is
read from the magnetic stripe?
Voting urn may have overwritten the magnetic
Organizational and procedural measures
neutralize these potential issues
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 207 December 2010
Key Arguments to Introduce New System
Hardware of “current” system is outdated
Supply issues
Countering issues with magnetic stripe cards
Dependable and verifiable marking of
Voter can verify voting ballot
Secure transport of voting ballots
Protection against eavesdropping and modification
of ballot storage and transmission
Counting votes: accurate and fast
No need for manual counting
Support for recounting
Manual audit
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 217 December 2010
optional interface for
visually challenged
Future eVoting Booth Components
chip card
reader mini PC
touch screen with
inductive pen
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 227 December 2010
Future Voting Ballot
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 237 December 2010
Future Voting Office’s Equipment
Ballot Verifier Ballot Box
© George Patton Associates, Inc.
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 247 December 2010
Voter’s Secrecy
Belgian election system is ‘vulnerable’ to
pattern-based voting
Avoid manual processing of ballots
Voter’s fingerprints or marks on paper based
Cameras in mobile phones, cf. vote selling
Miniaturized cameras in voting office or booth
Electromagnetic radiation (TEMPEST)
Perfect protection is complicated and expensive
Adequate protection is feasible
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 257 December 2010
Voting in Practice – Voters cast their vote
at a Polling Place
1. Voters living in a municipality cast their vote in a
voting office
2. Each voting office has a list with eligible voters
3. Each voting office has one voting urn to collect
completed voting ballots
4. A voting ballot consists either of a paper ballot or
of a magnetic stripe card
5. Election period = 1 Sunday, starting at 9.00
1. Offices using paper ballots close at 13.00
2. Offices using magnetic stripe cards close at 15.00
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 267 December 2010
Voting Procedure – Magnetic Stripe Ballots
Voting Urn
Voting Computer
Action: Start Voting Process
Confirm Eligible Voter
Identification Proof, Voting Convocation Letter, and possibly the form to Vote By Proxy
President of
Voting Office
Insert Magnetic Stripe Card
Magnetic Stripe Card with Blank Vote
Retrieve Magnetic Stripe Card Ballot
Magnetic Stripe Card Ballot
Confirm Voting Ballot
Action: Store Selected Votes
Inspect Card for Marks
Present Magnetic Stripe Card Ballot for Inspection
Magnetic Stripe Card Ballot
Cast Votes
Register Ballot (Classic)
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 277 December 2010
Voting in Practice – Voters cast their
Magnetic Stripe Ballot at a Polling Place
1. Voting officials seal an empty voting urn before first voter arrives
2. Administration broadcasts invitation cards by paper mail to all
Belgian citizens who are 18 or older on the Election Day
3. Voter hands over the identity card and invitation card to the
voting officials
Officials verify identity of the voter
Officials check whether the voter is listed on their list with eligible
4. Voter receives voting ballot or magnetic stripe card from voting
5. Voter casts his/her vote in the voting booth
If voter makes a mistake, the president of the voting office may decide
to give the voter a second chance
6. Voting official verifies whether the voter did not put a mark on the
ballot or magnetic stripe card
Marked ballots are invalid
7. Voter inserts the ballot or magnetic stripe card in the voting urn
8. Voting officials stamp the invitation letter to confirm that the
voter completed his/her duty
9. Voting officials return identity card and invitation card to voter
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 287 December 2010
Counting the Magnetic Stripe Ballots
Paper ballots
Seal of the voting urn is removed at the end of the
Election Day, e.g., around 14.00
Talliers keep tallying at voting office-level until they
count twice the same result
Magnetic stripe cards
Voting urn reads magnetic stripe card ballot
PC controlling voting urn keeps the score on a
All floppies of voting offices are aggregated per
municipality at the end of the Election Day
Seal of the voting urn with magnetic stripe cards is
only removed when recounting is necessary
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 297 December 2010
Counting New Voting Ballots
Ballot Box
Voting Ballot
Voting Ballot
Main Totalization Center
Second Totalization Center
First Totalization Center
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 307 December 2010
Counting New Voting Ballots
Ballot Box
Ballot Box
Voting Ballot
Voting Ballot
Voting Ballot
Main Totalization Center
Second Totalization Center
First Totalization Center
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 317 December 2010
Counting New Voting Ballots
Small Municipality
Ballot Box
Ballot BoxBallot Box
Ballot Box
Main Totalization Center
Voting Ballot
Voting Ballot
Second Totalization Center
First Totalization Center
Voting Ballot
Voting Ballot
Center Voting Ballot Reading Center
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 327 December 2010
Counting New Voting Ballots
Small Municipality
Ballot Box
Ballot Box
Ballot Box
Ballot Box
Voting Ballot
Ballot Box
Ballot BoxBallot Box
Ballot Box
Ballot Box
Ballot Box
Ballot Box
Ballot Box
Voting Ballot
Main Totalization Center
Second Totalization Center
First Totalization Center
Local transport of Ballot Boxes
Sending ballot information
Digital transport of partial voting results
Voting Ballot
Voting Ballot
Ballot Box
Voting Ballot Reading Center
(1) (1)
(4) (4)
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 337 December 2010
Processing Election Results
If a candidate dies before the Election Day
The deceased is treated as if he/she never existed
Votes for the deceased are taken into account to
determine the number of voters for the candidate’s list
If a candidate dies on the Election Day or after the
Election Day but before the official announcement of
the Election Result
The deceased may be elected, but the first successor
takes his seat
If a candidate dies after the official announcement of
the Election Result
The deceased is replaced by the first successor
If a candidate dies after closing the candidate list but
before printing the paper ballots
The list does not include the name of the deceased
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 347 December 2010
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 357 December 2010
Requirements for Belgian eVoting Systems
Be combinable with classic paper voting system
Be usable in the Belgian context
Cf. 7 election types, complex ballots…
Not too expensive
Available at all times
Modular & flexible
Different voting systems may be used in one canton
Installable in voting offices and voting booths
List of elections, candidates & parties varies per election
Easy to verify
Correct casting of votes, 1 voter = 1 ballot
Correct counting of votes
Secrecy of the vote
Encourage the automated processing of votes
Automated casting of votes is less important
Be very easy to use (user friendliness, simple,…)
Be very accessible/attractive to
Non-computer literate people, elderly, disabled people,…
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 367 December 2010
Operational Aspects
D-80: Preparation of lists with eligible voters
D-40: Independent experts can start auditing the Election procedure
D-33: Publication of banned acronyms in Belgian Gazette
D-30: Lottery to rank parties on voting ballots
D-26: Publication of parties and their numbers in Belgian Gazette
D-28: Deadline to submit election candidates
D-24: Fixing lists with election candidates
D-15: Publishing names of election witnesses, Mail broadcast of election
convocation letters
D-12: Appointing presidents and assistants of voting offices
D-10: Mail broadcast of lists with eligible voters per voting office
D- 5: Appointing election witnesses of voting & counting offices
D- 3: Deadline of voting computer boot floppy delivery to president of
cantonal headquarters
D- 1: President of voting office receives voting ballots, distribution of
computer boot floppies to presidents of voting offices
D : Election day, processing voting ballots after closing election period
D+15: End of the audit possibility of independent experts
D+45: Publication of election results
D+75: Finalization of election-related expenses
eVoting in Belgium: Past and Future 377 December 2010
optional interface for
visually challenged
Voting Booth + Barcode voting ballots
lintprinter chip card
mini PC
touch screen with
inductive pen
2. use touch
screen to mark
1. use chip card
to activate
voting computer
3. print
voting ballot
... There are many voting systems in the world, all of them aim to guaranty integrity and confidentially of the vote [1,2,3]. The necessity of secure election systems promotes discussions and new proposes to improve the electronic voting process [4,5,6,7,8]. ...
... Even this system evolution is not considered secure enough for many countries, which prefer the old method, with manual vote/counting [5]. Due to identified security holes, researchers and security analyst suggest many protocols and methods to improve security in voting systems [3,6,8]. ...
... Various election authorities around the country continue to use several eVoting systems such as DRE and optical scan systems [7,6]. In Europe, Belgium was one of the first countries to introduce eVoting in 1991 with the first trials of DRE machines [23]. Preliminary projects with DREs in Germany failed because of security vulnerabilities and the issue of legality for use in legally binding elections [8]. ...
... They also mainly concentrate on a decision made by the German Federal Constitutional Court in 2009. [23] evaluated different voting systems against selected criteria for their possible use in election requirements in Belgium. The evaluated systems were; a voting machine to generate paper ballots, optical scan based systems, as a whole, internet voting, and networked voting machines in a polling station. ...
... Secondly, one can expect lower expenses arising from hiring polling station workers, printing ballots, shipment costs, hiring space for voting, and similar (Abu-Shanab et al., 2010;Kumar and Walia, 2011). Furthermore, the time-consuming task of vote counting can be decreased to a minimum (Germann and Serdült, 2014), which was, inter alia, one of the main reasons for the implementation of online voting in Belgium in 2007 (Cock and Preneel, 2007). In addition, the access to voting of voters from abroad, the disabled, the visually impaired, and other vulnerable groups is improved. ...
Conference Paper
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... Belgium's apply similar approach as Ireland's in that it does not modify the voting process, but rather replaces the ballot paper with a machine at the polling station, and then uses an electronic counting system to tally the results. In 2003, an audit report released by the Federal Public Service of the Interior approved the systems after a simulation based on around 1 million votes [3]. areas. ...
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This dissertation’s aim is to contribute to the research that addresses the challenge of ensuring effective participation in decision-making procedures using information and communication technologies (ICT) in twenty-first century democracies, which are assumed to be the best form of government available (UN 1945; EU 1993). The use of ICT in elections, also often called electronic voting (hereinafter: e-voting), touches upon core principles in the governance of the contemporary democratic state. One might go as far as to say that the mechanisms of elections are not only methods through which societies may express their opinions but also indicators of how they use technology in general. Numerous elections throughout history have made use of emerging technologies in one way or another. Today, ICT is a widespread, common phenomenon, so technology-based electoral procedures seem almost inevitable. Nevertheless, the field lacks holistic research about e-voting that integrates these multidisciplinary perspectives with theoretical and practical approaches, and gives an insight into the motivating and influencing factors for using voting technology in elections. This dissertation contributes to four research topics, (1) how ICT affects democracy, (2) how to analyze the application of ICT in elections, (3) how the use of ICT in elections evolved; and (4) what the factors are that motivate stakeholders to introduce ICT, as follows: First, this transformation process offers and enables more and different socialinteraction possibilities from very remote places and with people whom we hardly know. As such, it will naturally affect the way a democratic system works and will challenge existing paradigms, such as the concept of representation. The use of ICT in elections will provide for more possibilities to participate and will ideally be used in a context of constant dialogue between representatives and voters. Second, the use of voting technologies is in no way easy. Discussions tend to lose focus due to the complexity and interdisciplinary nature of the topic. This inherent complexity can only be addressed with a conceptual model, such as the e-voting mirabilis that describes the influence factors of technology, law, politics and society and that describes the electoral process that is affected by e-voting. Only through such conceptualizations can developers make the discussions around e-voting more transparent and evident to a wider audience. Third, the development that voting technology has undergone since the appearance of the first concepts of mechanical voting machines some 170 years ago is remarkable. The technology was applied depending on knowledge and availability. In the earliest elections, voting technologies were quite diverse, but this diversity decreased with the appearance of the Australian ballot, which is still the most widely used voting technology today. Shortly after this type of paper ballot became a quasi-standard, the diversification started again. Most parts of the US began to use mechanical voting machines for many decades. After the Second World War, the use of electronic devices started with the electronic counting of mark-sense enabled ballots, which progressed to punchcards and finally the DRE electronic voting machines. Last but not least, whereas all of these technologies were more or less designed to reduce fraud and to enhance accuracy and speed, the last invention in the field of voting technology aimed for something completely different. Internet voting, in theory, enables the voters to participate from anywhere in nearly no time at all in the election process of their choice. This technology also comes with the promise to enable more voters to cast their vote and thereby raise the turnout. The realization of these promises could support the important goal of providing the politicians and representatives with the possibility to appear modern by endorsing a new voting technology for the core process of democracy. Estonia may easily be the best example of this political move. Overall it can be said that the promises that developers are currently pairing with electronic voting are often too high, because “IT tools are not a panacea to solve existing problems in the elections field. … where there already is lack of trust in the electoral process, its digitalisation will not improve the situation; on the contrary, it may further diminish voter confidence” (Lenarčič 2010). Nevertheless, e-voting can offer additional functionalities to elections in areas where traditional technologies like paper ballots are limited by trying to raise and/or maintain voter turn-out, counting complicated and large-volume elections, supporting the handicapped, assisting vision-impaired voters, and facilitating remote voters’ participation in elections. As history has shown, when a government follows a balanced and proportional approach that considers multiple dimensions and undertakes careful preparations, including deciding for a step-by-step approach, it can deploy voting technology that contributes to a better democracy.
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