Presidential Elections, 2007

Since its inception, electronic voting has been met with some skepticism and opposition, but never more so than in France.  This year’s general elections in France demonstrated how strong that opposition can be, even in the face of record turnouts. 

Electronic Voting Machines in France were first authorized in 2004, although the 2007 presidential elections were the first opportunity for electronic voting to be used in general elections.  First-round elections saw a record high of 85% voter turnout - 37.6 million voters in total.  And of the total number of eligible voters, 1.5 million were predicted to turn to e-voting instead of the traditional method of ballot envelope and clear box.   This is quite a large percentage, considering these machines were only implemented in 82 of 36,000 of voting districts. 

But the 2007 elections were not the first hint of change.  In 2003 for the election of the representatives to the Assembly of the French Citizens Abroad, French citizens were allowed to use remote internet voting.  Over 60% of the electorate chose to vote via the internet rather than using paper votes.

This first instance of electronic voting (although not in polling centers or for large general elections) began a wave of debate over the use of this kind of voting in the future.  The Forum des droits sur l'Internet in 2003 published a recommendation report, “What is the future of electronic voting in France?,” which clarified the reasons for and against e-voting but ultimately concluded that “this system of voting could be introduced into the French electoral process following a gradual and reasoned approach.”  The same report argued that electronic voting simplifies the voting process, offers an increased opportunity for political participation, and is generally in line with increasing use of information and computer technologies (ICT) throughout France.

However, the debate leading up to the 2007 presidential elections was mostly one sided – against the use of voting machines.  In fact, all of the main political parties except for Union pour un Mouvement Populaire(UMP) were opposed to electronic voting in general elections.  Among the major points, were security, ease of use, and cost of the machines. 

France is a strong example of a country just beginning explore the full options of electronic voting.  It currently also enjoys the benefit of having many available examples of how other countries have successfully implemented electronic voting systems. It may be some time before we can appreciate the full consequences of electronic voting in France, but it seems for now that this new system is here to stay, and - following its own recommendations – will gradually be further integrated and improved.

© Gloria Lin and Nicole Espinoza 2007

Stanford University

Electronic Voting


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Source: AP/ Deutsche Welle,