[E-voting] Re: Submission to CEV (Can anybody help with the following)

Aengus Lawlor aengusl at eircom.net
Tue Mar 23 14:36:10 GMT 2004

James, I asked for the machine to be reset at the 2nd Nice referendum. I
raised this issue on Joe Duffys Liveline show on the 6th of February,
and by the end of the program, someone had contacted the program to
announce that there were in fact about 400 "invalid votes" in the 6
Dublin pilot constituencies. As far as I know that was the first public
release of that information (at least I've never come across any
reference to it being available before that date).

If you have the RealPlayer installed, you can listen to my piece on
Liveline here:
At the end of the show, Joe read out a list of the number of "invalid

I subsequently was in touch with the Labour Party on the issue of
Electronic Voting, and suggested that a parliamentary question be asked
on this issue, which led to a statement by the Minister. (See below).

I was not trying to abstain. I was not trying to spoil my vote. I was
specifically interested in making a statement that I wanted to cast a
vote, but that I was not satisfied that the NEDAP machines would
reliably reflect my vote. As far as I was concerned, I was prevented
from voting. Even if there had been an "abstain" button on the machine,
I would have explained to the polling officer that I wasn't prepared to
use the machines without a paper ballot, and told them to reset it.

While my experience does highlight the fact that the system prevents a
voter from casting a blank ballot in total secrecy, I amn't in a
position to complain that the secrecy of my ballot was invaded, because
I deliberately surrendered the secrecy of my ballot to make a point
about unverifiable e-voting. I'd advise you to avoid any mention of
abstaining in your submission, and stick with references to a blank
ballot, as the terms of reference are very narrow (a deliberate move by
the Minister to make it easier to Huttonize their report), and any
references to abstaining will probably be used to exclude your
submission. (It's a purely semantic distinction, but that won't stop
them excluding you for using the wrong labels).


Question No.  30
Chun an Aire Comhshaoil, Oidhreachta agus Rialtais Áitiúil:
To the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
the number of persons, in respect of the constituencies in the general
election and the second Nice Referendum in which electronic voting was
used, who signed in but did not then press the cast vote button; the
reason these were not counted as spoiled votes; the further reason they
were not included in the overall turnout figures; and if he will make a
statement on the matter.
 - Mary Upton. For ORAL answer on Thursday, 4th March, 2004.
Ref No:  7132/04

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Cullen)

Electoral legislation in relation to paper based voting addressed the
phenomenon of spoilt votes and required returning officers to discard
these for the purposes of the valid poll. Aggregated information on such
spoilt votes has traditionally, but not as a legal requirement, been
published as part of official election returns.

Because the electronic voting and counting system is designed to prevent
unintended spoiling of votes, the above  legislative provisions, based
on paper ballots,  are explicitly disapplied from electronic voting and

Instead, new legislative provisions require a record to be kept of
deactivations of the voting machine, in the event that a person
approaches the voting machine but departs without pressing the 'cast
vote' button.

On the basis of an improvement to the electronic voting machine
implemented since the 2002 pilot exercises, records of all deactivations
will in future be stored by the machine and be available as part of the
election statistics provided by the system.

This recording feature was not incorporated in the version of the
machine used in 2002. At the general election and Nice 2 referendum,
returning officers were required manually to record the incidence of
deactivations in
polling stations.

While my Department understands that this manual recording was carried
out, aggregate results were not in the event published by returning
officers in the official election returns.

In the context of my Department's information booklet on referenda
generally which is published periodically, my Department will seek to
include information regarding deactivations in the constituencies which
employed electronic voting at the Nice 2 referendum. From information
available from the areas concerned, some 500 deactivations would have
been recorded across the 7 constituencies compared with 270,124 votes
validly cast.


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