Legislative: how does internet voting work, accessible to French people living abroad?

The number of French people living abroad is estimated at 2.5 million people. But they are only around 1.6 million to be registered in the “Register of French people established outside France”, and therefore to have the possibility of voting by internet for the first round of the legislative elections, Friday May 27 from noon .

This possibility had already been implemented in 2012, but canceled in 2017 due to “the extremely high threat level of cyberattacks.” Because obviously, voting by Internet poses security problems and experts in this field believe that for the moment “the technology is not mature”. This is the case of Véronique Cortier, researcher at the CNRS, at the Lorraine Computer Science Research Laboratory : “In the current state of knowledge, electronic voting does not offer the same guarantees as voting at the ballot box as it is organized in France for major elections. It remains a challenge to make a system as secure as the paper vote. We’re not there!” The researcher adds that, on the other hand, “This possibility becomes relevant when using postal voting.”

For Jean, who lives in Barcelona and will not be at home for the two rounds of the legislative elections, it is high time to switch to internet voting: “I think that voting by postal mail, by sending a paper letter that passes through the posts of various intermediate countries, is nonsense. It is true that proxy voting is a good alternative. But that means finding someone in the constituency that you trust enough. Secondly, it also implies that I break the anonymity of the vote so it is not very practical.” Jean will therefore vote online, as he did in 2012.

“If there is no internet voting, I will not vote!”

Jean, French living in Spain

at franceinfo

To access the internet voting portal (from May 26 until June 1), Jean and all those who want to do like him must go to on the France Diplomacy website and follow “the voter route”. They will only be able to vote, with an identifier and a password, after having rolled out the complete list of candidates in their constituency. At the end of the vote, the voter receives an electronic message confirming to him that his ballot paper has been recorded by the internet voting system and communicating to him his signature reference. The latter certifies that the voter has indeed voted online.

On internet voting, regulations in France are very weak. For example, the service provider is not obliged to make the operation of the system public, unlike in Switzerland. On the other hand, the novelty this year is that there is now a safeguard. This is a first in France: a team of three people from the CNRS has been mandated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the announced result corresponds to the encrypted ballots. The ministry is following a CNIL recommendation on “the security of internet voting systems“.

Véronique Cortier is one of these three researchers. “When voters vote, their choice is sent in an encrypted way to the server so that we don’t know who they voted for. At the time of the count, the result is announced and cryptographic proof is produced, which proves that the announced result corresponds to all the encrypted ballots received. As this is a cryptographic proof that is very difficult to read for ordinary mortals, our role will be to verify that this cryptographic proof carries the guarantees that the announced results correspond to all of the encrypted bulletins provided by the service provider.”

These CNRS researchers will then send all those who have voted online proof that their vote has been taken into account.

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Legislative: how does internet voting work, accessible to French people living abroad?

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