[E-voting] [email@example.com: Second Stage D?il Debate
Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004]
Margaret.McGaley at redbrick.dcu.ie
Wed Mar 31 12:54:29 IST 2004
----- Forwarded message from Cathy Flanagan <cathy_flanagan at labour.ie> -----
From: "Cathy Flanagan" <cathy_flanagan at labour.ie>
To: <Margaret.McGaley at redbrick.dcu.ie>
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2004 12:22:35 +0100
Subject: Second Stage Dáil Debate Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004
Extract of SPEECH BY EAMON GILMORE TD
LABOUR SPOKESPERSON ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Wednesday, March 31st 2004.
Second Stage Dáil Debate Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004
GOV?S OBSESSION WITH ELECTRONIC VOTING INEXPLICABLE
Why is Fianna Fáil so determined to bring in Electronic Voting?
Why is Minister Cullen almost obsessed with implementing Electronic voting at the Local and European Elections on June 11th?
Why has Electronic Voting become such a top priority for this Government?
Why is the rest of this week?s entire Dáil time given over to this Bill on Electronic Voting ? ahead of, for example ? the Disability Bill; the Bill to reform and modernise the Garda Síochána; overdue legislation on Criminal Justice; Employment Permits; Motor Insurance; Health and Safety at Work ? in fact a total of almost 150 pieces of legislation, which have been promised at some stage or other to deal with the real concerns of the people who have sent us here?
Why is Electronic Voting the top priority for the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government ? claiming two successive days this week of scarce Dáil time, jumping ahead of the Report Stage of the Residential Tenancies Bill, for which the 150,000 tenants in this country have been waiting now, for nearly 4 years.
It may of course be that giving legal rights of tenants is not a priority for this Landlord?s Government who are more interested in supporting property investors than in meeting the housing needs of the poor.
But why has the Electronic Voting Bill assumed such urgency that it has upstaged the promised legislation to allow for the completion of the M50 at Carrickmines, the delay on which is reportedly costing the taxpayer €1/4 M per week?
Why is a Bill to change the way we vote, the Government?s top legislative priority today, brought forward before the Strategic National Infrastructure Bill which the Taoiseach told the Fianna Fáil Conference last September was urgently needed to fast-track the infrastructure needed to underpin the country?s economic well-being?
Why is the Minister giving so much of his time and effort to changing what happens in polling stations, when he could be changing the way we deal with illegal dumping, with our poor water quality or with the housing crisis?
What has happened to the Water Services Bill, which we were told was needed to comply with EU Law on the environment, a bill which was published last December and which has yet to get an airing in the House? Why has that Bill, which will affect every household in the country been moved out of the way for the Electronic Voting Bill?
Why of all the reforms needed to our Electoral Law, is priority being given to Electronic Voting? What has happened to the promised legislation on the implications of the Kelly Judgement? And would we not be better off considering how to improve the dilapidated state of the Electoral Register?
Why at a time when most people in this country can not post a letter, or get it delivered, is this Government insisting that the most pressing business for the National Parliament, is to change the way elections are conducted, so that Electronic Voting can be in place by June 11th.
Why is the Government now unilaterally forcing the implementation of Electronic Voting, when it had initially promised to implement it by agreement?
The Labour Party opposed the Electoral Act 2001, which permits the introduction
of Electronic Voting. I am on record at the Dáil Debates on the 2001 Bill,
urging a cautious approach to any switch over to Electronic Voting. The then Minister of State, Robert Molloy, assured both Houses, that Electronic Voting would only be implemented by agreement with the political parties.
I was surprised therefore, that the Government decided, following the trials at the 2002 General Election and the second Nice Referendum to switch over totally to Electronic Voting for all elections in all constituencies. That decision was made without discussion or consultation with Opposition parties.
I was even more surprised that when last Autumn, when Labour, Fine Gael and the Green Party all expressed serious concerns about the plans for Electronic
Voting, these concerns were ignored. Was I naïve in believing that in our
democracy, the sitting Government would not use it?s parliamentary majority to force changes in the way elections are conducted, in the face of unanimous opposition from the other parties?
When Electronic Voting was being considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee last November and December, I expected the Government to step back from it?s implementation in June, and to allow time for consensus to develop on it?s introduction, for technical issues to be addressed and for the confidence of the public to be assured.
I was astonished, when on December 18th last, the Government parties used their numerical majority on the Committee to force a vote to ?approve? Electronic Voting ? before the Committee had completed it?s consideration of the issue. And I was alarmed to discover that on the day after that vote the contractual arrangements were completed with private companies supplying the hardware and software.
When the Government responded to the Opposition Motion in February by announcing the appointment of a Commission and by conceding that new primary legislation would be necessary, I again believed the opportunity would be taken to slow down the introduction of Electronic Voting. By then it had become clear that there is no public demand for Electronic Voting; that indeed there is considerable opposition to it?s introduction; that there is a growing body of expert opinion which is warning of it?s dangers; that the county?s Opposition parties are distinctly uneasy at the Government?s approach, and that at very least, this fundamental change in our voting system should not be undertaken within such a short time frame.
I have been surprised again. It would appear that contrary to all administrative and political logic, the Government intends to determinedly switch this country over to Electronic Voting on June 11th whether the opposition likes it or not.
What is all this about? What is behind the Government?s single minded drive to introduce Electronic Voting?
I do not accept that this is all down to the Minister?s ego. It is tempting to imagine the Minister, as my Party Leader put it, as a Napoleonic figure throwing a tantrum on his return from the Far East, and insisting that he get his own
way. But Minister Cullen is hardly so desperate as to stake his political
reputation on a project which was not his own idea in the first place. In any event, such delusions would hardly be indulged by the Government, as a whole, to the extent of handing over valuable Dáil time for it, if the Government itself were not committed to it.
It could of course be down to arrogance. This FF/PD Government has now been in office for so long that they think they own the country, and that they alone can change the way the people cast their votes, no matter what the Opposition think
of it. If this Bill is the product of Government Arrogance, then it is the
Government itself, and not the electoral process which needs to be changed.
But the question remains, why is Fiánna Fáil so desperate to change the way the people coast their votes?
There is one other country where the Ruling Party has become obsessed with the same objective ? that is the United States of America, where the Republican Party of President Bush, shares Fiánna Fáils passion for Electronic Voting.
The United States experience is illuminating. Following the Florida debacle, the United States Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act in October 2002, with the objective of introducing fully electronic voting all over the country. Different States may use different systems, and already Electronic Voting systems have been used in several elections. The Republican Party seems to be particularly keen on Electronic Voting. And with good reason.
Journalist Ben Harris, who is now specialising on Electronic Voting, points out that the State of Georgia was the first to introduce DRE?s ?Direct Recording Electronic Voting Systems? ? similar (but not the same) as the new system being introduced here. In the 2002 elections, a poll in the Atlanta Journal, two days before the election, put the Democratic incumbent Senator Max Cleland five points ahead, but on election day, the Republican challenger, the Chambliss, won by seven points ? a 12 point shift in 48 hours!
----- End forwarded message -----
Margaret.McGaley at redbrick.dcu.ie
More information about the E-voting