It’s a rumor that has agitated social networks in recent weeks. A few days before the first round of the presidential election in France, many viral publications have accused the government of preparing a massive fraud by entrusting the compilation of the votes to the American company Dominion, which specializes in electronic voting. This private company, regularly targeted by conspiracy publications, had been accused by Donald Trump and members of the Qanon movement of rigging the 2020 US presidential election using its electronic voting machines. But then, is there a risk of massive electronic fraud in the French presidential election?
Dominion was chosen to centralize the votes, and Twitter already warns that those who contest the elections will see their accounts disappear, the polls give Macron at 30%…still not understood?
Yes, Macron will be re-elected. And as with Biden, the sheep will believe it.
— Alphanumeric (@Alphanumric2) March 18, 2022
Dominion Voting Systems, which claims on its website to be one of the world’s leading providers of voting technology, denied to AFP its involvement in Sunday’s poll: “Dominion Voting Systems does not operate in France“. This was confirmed by the Ministry of the Interior: “The Department of the Interior does not and has never used the services of the Dominion Company in connection with the organization of elections”said the minister’s entourage to the news agency. The latter also assured not to call on external service providers in the context of vote centralization operations.
Dominion will therefore have no influence on the conduct of the presidential election. But electronic voting will actually be implemented in certain municipalities for the elections of April 10 and 24, 2022, in a very limited way. Thus, around sixty French municipalities will be able to equip some or all of their polling stations with “voting machines”. Authorized from 1969, these machines can be set up in the polling stations of municipalities with more than 3,500 inhabitants appearing on a list validated in each department by the representative of the State, stipulates the Electoral Code. The city of Le Havre (Seine-Maritime), for example, states on its website that it has equipped all its polling stations with voting machines since 2005.Just over a million voters can only vote electronically, representing nearly 3% of voters” in France, explains Chantal Enguehard, lecturer in the computer science department at the University of Nantes.
However, dSince 2008, a moratorium has restricted their use to municipalities that had opted for this modality at that date. A decision taken after criticism targeting electronic voting, particularly from academics. In question, problems in the transparency of the election. “QWhen a voter votes with a paper ballot, the ballot in the transparent ballot box is the one that is counted in the evening, everyone can see itanalyzes Chantal Enguehard. With machine voting, it’s like a private company taking the ballots and going to copy them into a closed room and telling you to trust them.”
Pierrick Gaudry, researcher at the CNRS and specialist in electronic voting, does not say anything else: “All the voter has in front of him is a machine he doesn’t understand how it works.“
“It is because the elections are transparent that the voters who voted for the loser can accept the result. With this system, whatever the result given by the machine, it must be accepted while the counting is not not observable.”Chantal Enguehard, lecturer in the computer science department at the University of Nantes
Critics who target electronic voting also point to the technical problems it can pose. L’Voting Observatory, which has published a report for each election since 2007, thus notes a constant anomaly: at each ballot, there is a discrepancy between the votes cast and the signatures (the lists where the voter must sign next to his name after having voted ). However, this difference is on average three to five times greater in offices where voting computers are installed. However, nothing proves that these discrepancies are due to manipulation of the vote, and they could be linked to a voting method to which the assessors are less accustomed. Another problematic eventuality, Chantal Enguehard recalls that, as with any computer device, voting machines are likely to be victims of bugs.
From there to speak of a risk of electoral fraud? The Ministry of the Interior assured Franceinfo in 2021 that “the risks of fraud or failure have never been proven on the old models of voting machines (still in use)”. For Beauvau, “physical access” by machine would “the only way” of the “divert” of its proper functioning. To avoid it, are “sealed” are placed on the devices to ensure that they have not been opened between the time of their configuration for the election and the day of the vote.
According to Pierrick Gaudry, this risk is however not non-existent, especially since the most recent machines were manufactured in 2008, which makes them, according to the researcher, more vulnerable to current hacking techniques. “Securing machine voting is extremely difficult. By nature, for the machines used in France, we cannot have any other guarantees than those of the people who audited them before the election. If the votes are changed, we have no way of knowing.“A problematic risk given the lack of transparency of the process.”In a period where fake news circulates at high speed, it does not seem to me to be a good idea to add doubt“, adds the researcher.