Voting machines

In order to facilitate the casting and counting of votes, it was possible to use voting machines instead of ballot papers and ballot boxes up to and in the 2005 Bundestag Election and the 2004 European Election. Electronic voting machines were used for the first time in the 1999 European Election. In keeping with the Federal Voting Machine Ordinance, their construction and use had to be approved and authorized by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community.

By judgment of 3 March 2009 (file references: 2 BvC 3/07 and 2 BvC 4/07), the Federal Constitutional Court laid down rules for the use of voting machines.

The Second Senate decided that the use of electronic voting machines presupposes that the citizens can reliably check the essential steps of voting and the way in which the result is determined without any special knowledge being required. It stated that this followed from the principle of the public nature of the poll (Article 38 in conjunction with Articles 20 (1) and (2) of the Basic Law), which requires that all essential steps of an election can be checked by the public, provided that other constitutional requirements do not justify an exception. From the constitutional perspective, there are no objections to the fact that Section 35 of the Federal Elections Act permits the use of voting machines. The Federal Voting Machine Ordinance, however, is unconstitutional because it does not ensure that only such voting machines are approved and used as fulfil the constitutional requirements of the above principle.

According to the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court, the voting machines which were still used at the 2005 Bundestag election do not fulfil the Basic Law’s requirements for the use of electronic voting machines.

The judgment does not entail, however, a fundamental constitutional ban on voting computers.

Legal bases

Bundestag election:

Section 35 of the Federal Elections Act (BWG)
Federal Voting Machine Ordinance (BWahlGV)

European election:

Section 17 of the European Elections Act (EuWG)
Federal Voting Machine Ordinance (BWahlGV)

Last update: 3 January 2022