[E-voting] Abstention - an accuracy issue?

Aengus Lawlor aengusl at eircom.net
Fri Mar 19 15:52:49 GMT 2004

Mark Dennehy <Mark.Dennehy at cs.tcd.ie> wrote:
> Is the issue of abstention/NOTA votes a topic we wish to
> debate on this list? Or does this fall outside the intended
> purview of the ICTE?

The issue of Abstention has already been discussed, in some detail, at
the beginning of February (when Cullen made his first gaffe on this

Michael McMahon <michael at hexmedia.com> wrote:
> Abstaining anonymously, doesn't seem like a very important "right"
> to me. I don't understand all the hoo-hah over it.

There are lots of people who aren't convinced that voting anonymously is
a very important right. In fact, the number of people who don't think
that voting at all is an important right is greater than the number that
vote for any given party in Ireland.

The reason it "matters" is that it makes the proposed implementation of
electronic voting unconstitutional, because it forces some categories of
voters to reveal how they voted. But given the rather slip shod attitude
to protecting our rights in various provisions of the Constitution, it
probably wouldn't be enough to stop the implementation, unless someone
who had a very good week at Cheltenham decided to risk it all by
bringing a challenge on that basis.

It is also an important issue because it happens to reveal the level to
which the Department of the Environment has been willing to lie to the
public about the results of the "pilot" use of the system. It was only
when this issue became a "live" issue in February that the Department
admitted that they intentionally withheld the true number of "spoilt
votes" in the 2nd Nice referendum, and that the machines were manually
"deactivated" 500 times. The Minister is refusing to say how many
deactivations there were in the first pilot in the 3 General Election
constituiencies (because their record keeping wasn't good enough to give
a reliable answer!).

"Casey, Dermot (GE Consumer Finance)" <Dermot.Casey at ge.com> wrote:
> There is plenty of choice in the political system.

Reminds me of Henry Fords stement about the colour of Model T's - "You
can have any color as long as it's black" :-).

(I'm not disagreeing with you in principle, Dermot. But in a "winner
takes all" Dáil, the theory and the reality don't quite match up as well
as we might like).

Aidan Delaney <adelaney at cs.may.ie> wrote:
> The issue of voter abstention (a.k.a. "None of the above" option)

Abstention and "None of the Above" are not the same thing! "None of the
Above" implies a "negative vote", as Mark Dennehy explained (but he
doesn't explain who get's to run the country if "None of the Above" wins
the election). NOTA doesn't really make any sense in a PR system - what
happens if "NOTA" get's 2 quotas in a 5 seater? Do you just fill the
other 3 seats?


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