[E-voting] Questions and Answers (May 10)

Adrian Colley aecolley at spamcop.net
Tue May 11 00:09:47 IST 2004

One of the questions asked of the panel on tonight's Questions and
Answers show on RTÉ was whether e-voting would come in eventually.
Nothing surprising (except that someone needs to give Dick Roche an
updated FF policy cheat sheet), but a couple of good quotes.

Olwyn Enright (Fine Gael TD) tore into the proposed system, calling it
"a mess from start to finish", and carefully distinguishing between
e-voting "as a method" and the system condemned by the Commission.

Ursula Kilkelly (Law lecturer in UCC) gave credit to the opposition to
the system "inside and outside the Dáil", saying it showed how
Government policy could after all be changed under pressure.  She
questioned the urgency with which the system was brought in, saying that
it wasn't in the programme for government, and wasn't a public priority.
She was surprised that it was run in the pilots without any form of
parallel audit process.

Dick Roche (Fianna Fáil junior minister) said that the urgency came from
the large incidence of spoiled ballots compared to the small winning
margins in elections, and said that the electronic system is "very
accurate" in eliminating such spoiled ballots.  He said that there has
been an average of 1 election per year for the last decade.  He
described the facility to handle transfers proportionally rather than by
random selection as "a critical argument" in favour of the system.
Finally, he said he was converted when he was involved in a week-long
recount in Arklow.

Noel Whelan (barrister and tallyman) described the rollout as "gambling
with public confidence".  He said that the cited flaws in the manual
system were "not there at all", and contrasted it with the "250-350"
people in each constituency in 2002 who left the polling station without
pressing the "cast vote" button.  He said the software is not up to our
required levels of transparency, accuracy, or secrecy, or to our
single-transferable vote process.  He mentioned scanned ballots as a
possible future move.  He described the week-long recount as providing a
greater sense of security in the accuracy of the result.  Finally, he
said we should "bring technology to the system, rather than turning it
into a technological system".

Eddie Hobbs (financial consultant) said Martin Cullen must be delighted
that the AIB story has displaced e-voting from the headlines.  He said
that if a machine minted 1 euro per second, it would reach €52m in
February 2006.

Michael Lawlor (who asked the question) said e-voting would eventually
be adopted, and gave cell phones and TV remotes (à la Sky News) as
possible examples.  The man sitting beside him simply asked "if these
machines don't work, why couldn't they be returned to the supplier and
get our money back?" to general laughter.

If I recall correctly, segments from the programme can be had from the
RTÉ website on http://www.rte.ie/ somewhere.


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