[E-voting] Returning officers reports from 2002

Aengus Lawlor aengusl at eircom.net
Wed Apr 14 17:01:01 IST 2004

Colm MacCarthaigh <colm at stdlib.net> wrote:
> That reminds me, this came to me via another astute reader of the
> list:
> The report of some independent observers of the 2nd Nice referendum
> here,
> ...
>  If votes
>  are not counted in polling stations, or at least at the constituency
>  level, then errors can creep in more easily because there is less
>  diversity in the counts.    There is also no correlation in the
>  polling station between the number of votes cast and the number of
>  votes counted, even though this is an elementary procedure in most
>  if not all polling stations in the former Communist countries of
>  Eastern and Central Europe.

It can't be stressed strongly enough that very great care must be made
when making any comparisons between polling practices and procedures in
Ireland, with a multi-seat, PR-STV system, and the practices in many
other jurisdictions, whether in Eastern Europe or the USA (or India or
Brazil, for that matter).

Counting the votes at the polling station is practical, and arguably
even a sensible thing to do in any simple, first past the post type of
election. It's not a sensible thing to do for a multi-seat PR-STV
election. Because we have historically had far more of these multi-seat
PR-STV elections than single issue referendums, election practice in
Ireland has always been to have centralized constituency counts.

It's not true to say that there is no correlation between the number of
votes cast and the number of votes counted. A note is made of the number
of votes that should be in each box, and is double checked when each box
is opened and the votes are first examined. If there is a discrepancy,
the number of votes will be double-checked, but the practice is that the
physical ballot papers themselves are the actual votes cast. As long as
reasonable steps have been taken to prevent someone "hiding" ballot
papers, or "stuffing" extra papers into a box (by checking for a stamp
on the papers), then this has always been acceptable. The problem with
the proposed electronic system is that we will no longer have those
physical ballot papers, so the cross-check against the number of ballots
cast becomes far more important.


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