[E-voting] Electronic Voting in the Dáil Yesterday

Colm MacCarthaigh colm at stdlib.net
Wed Nov 30 23:26:20 GMT 2005

On Wed, Nov 30, 2005 at 11:14:24PM +0000, Ciaran Quinn wrote:
> I wonder could questions be asked such as:-
> 1. Has a legal opinion been sought as to the constitutionality or 
> legality of the electronic voting system?
> 2. Has a legal opinion been sought as to the constitutionality or 
> legality of the way voting was conducted in those constituencies in 
> which electronic voting was used in the general election and referendum 
> in 2002?
> 3. Has the government any plans to seek a legal opinion on the legality 
> of the electronic voting system?
> Presumably they couldn't (or shouldn't) spend money on testing if they 
> know it is illegal? (I am thinking about the legal opinion about nursing 
> home charges)

Hmm, I like that idea, and we certainly have channels. I think the
questions would need to be more pro-active though, how about;

	1. Bearing in mind that any electronic voting system without a
  	   Voter-Verified Audit Trail will, by design, be categorically and
	   provably subject to undetectable errors; has a legal opinion
	   been sought as to the constitutionality of such a system, and in
	   particular whether the Government would be adequately
	   safeguarding the constitutional right to democracy in the
	   event of such a system being put to use?

	2. If not, does the Government have any plans to seek legal
	   advice on the matter?

I wouldn't ask the question 2, because I'm not sure it works in our
favour. The law is quite complicated there, in that the polls have been
certified, which makes them legal regardless of anything else. Nobody
challenged those polls.

> >Below is the text of a debate on Electronic Voting in the Dáil yesterday, 
> >for
> >those who are interested.  Roche makes some interesting statements.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >  9. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local
> >Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the UK 
> >Government
> >has cancelled all it plans to run trials of electronic voting in advance 
> >of UK
> >local elections in 2006; if, in view of this, he intends to abandon the
> >electronic voting project altogether; and if he will make a statement on 
> >the
> >matter. [36644/05]
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: Governments in different jurisdictions, including the UK, will
> >adopt varying approaches to electoral issues according to their own
> >circumstances and priorities at any given time.  For example, the UK 
> >operates a
> >first past the post electoral system and it is not advocated in this House 
> >that
> >the UK should be an exemplar for us in this regard.
> > The Government decision in February 2000 to move to electronic voting and
> >counting in Ireland aimed at securing a broad range of identified benefits
> >compared to the current manual arrangements, including more democratic 
> >outcomes
> >through the minimisation of invalid votes and the more accurate counting of
> >votes, provision of a higher level of service to the public, greater
> >flexibility and speed in the voting and counting processes, and increased 
> >use
> >of modern information and communications technologies.  The decision 
> >followed
> >extensive research on electronic voting systems and experiences in other
> >countries and the trial conducted in Ireland about which, it will be 
> >recalled,
> >the main Opposition party was most enthusiastic.
> > The Electoral (Amendment) Act 2004, which confirms the use of electronic
> >voting and counting at Irish elections, maintains the mandate from the
> >Government and the Oireachtas to work towards implementation of electronic
> >voting and counting.  Accordingly, a programme of further assessment, 
> >testing
> >and validation of the electronic voting and counting system is under way to
> >address issues raised by the Commission on Electronic Voting and 
> >demonstrate
> >that the system operates reliably, securely and accurately.  As part of 
> >this
> >programme and following an open procurement process, my Department 
> >appointed
> >consultants in July 2005 to undertake a security and risk assessment of all
> >aspects of the system.  This work is now well under way and will be 
> >completed
> >as soon as possible.
> >
> >  Mr. Gilmore: It is a great relief to hear the Government has appointed
> >consultants to examine the security of electronic voting and to conduct a 
> >risk
> >assessment.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: The confidence in our counting ability is such that the Deputy
> >should breathe a sigh of relief.
> >
> >  Mr. Gilmore: It will reassure the country.  The British Government 
> >  sensibly
> >decided to carry out tests of electronic voting before committing itself to
> >using electronic voting in elections.  The last tests were in 2003 and more
> >trials were scheduled for 2004, but these were abandoned on the advice of 
> >the
> >electoral commission.  They have now abandoned the whole idea.  Whatever 
> >the
> >Minister may think of the British electoral system, the British Government 
> >has
> >approached the issue of electronic voting more sensibly than the crowd of
> >"electro-Paddies" which purchased machines software without testing them.  
> >What
> >will the Minister do with the machines?  He has stated that they will not 
> >be
> >used in the next general election, so what is to become of them?  Will the
> >Minister find some place, such as Zimbabwe or Florida, which may need the
> >assistance of these machines?  The machines could be sold as a job lot and 
> >we
> >could at least cut our losses.  We would not have to pay the €750,000 cost 
> >of
> >storing the machines every year.  It is time to cut our losses on the 
> >botched
> >electronic voting system.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: I am familiar with the Deputy's views on the issue.  With 
> >  regard
> >to the UK, 27 different pilot projects were carried out, with the forms of
> >voting ranging from SMS text voting - I do not understand how that would 
> >work -
> >to Internet, postal and electronic voting, which would be a similar 
> >process to
> >our own.  More recently, the focus in the last British general election 
> >was on
> >the large-scale provision of postal voting.  It is intended to continue 
> >their
> >activities in this regard, although there was concern over security.
> > The UK Government has recently decided not to seek applications for local
> >authorities to pilot the use of electronic voting systems.  Electronic 
> >voting
> >systems are used elsewhere and we piloted them here.
> >
> >  Mr. Gilmore: They are used in Florida.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: There was a degree of enthusiasm when the idea was piloted 
> >  here. If we all had the benefit of hindsight at the time-----
> >
> >  Mr. Gilmore: If only the Minister had listened to me in the first place.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: I do not wish to be disingenuous as I do not know what the 
> >  Deputy
> >stated at the time, but the Deputy would have demonstrated more prescience 
> >than
> >other members of the Opposition.  The Deputy asked if we will give the 
> >machines
> >away, but that would not be a sensible suggestion.
> >
> >  Mr. Gilmore: We could sell them.  Is there a market for electronic voting
> >machines?
> >
> >  Mr. Cuffe: There would be a charge under the WEEE directive.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: A charge would have to be paid if I sold them on.  I am 
> >  looking at
> >the storage issue and I hope to resolve it as I am seeking to identify a 
> >storage
> >location with my colleagues.  It does not serve a purpose to have the 
> >machines
> >in expensive storage on a decentralised basis.  They will not be used in 
> >the
> >2007 elections, but I would not hold my breath after that time.
> >
> >  Mr. O'Dowd: The problem with storage is the ambient temperature and other
> >issues regarding the quality and capacity of the location.  The machines 
> >cannot
> >be placed in a bin or large space in a basement.  Is it not important to 
> >now
> >move on and get people out to vote?  The numbers of people voting in 
> >general
> >elections is reducing, particularly in urban areas.  We need more polling
> >stations near where people work or shop.  Fewer people are voting now, in
> >percentage terms, than was the case.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: The Deputy is correct and we should facilitate people's 
> >  voting. In the British debate on electronic and Internet voting in 
> >particular, a
> >possibility that was thought attractive was that people vote in a booth in 
> >a
> >supermarket.
> >
> >  Mr. Stagg: They do not have Fianna Fáil over there.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: Given our experience we should make haste slowly.  I agree 
> >  with
> >the Deputy in that changing lifestyles have necessitated that voting be 
> >made
> >easier.  We should encourage people to vote and ensure we have a proper 
> >voting
> >register.
> >
> >  Mr. O'Dowd: Absolutely.
> >
> >  Acting Chairman: I intend to take three brief questions from Deputies
> >Gilmore, McCormack, and Cuffe.
> >
> >  Mr. Gilmore: How much are the services of the consultants who have been
> >appointed to check on the machines, see if they are affected by damp and 
> >ensure
> >that nobody is trying to steal or copy the patents, which would cost the
> >taxpayer on top of the other wasted funding for these machines?
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: I should be so lucky.
> >
> >  Mr. McCormack: I welcome the Minister's assurance that the machines will 
> >  not
> >be used in 2007.  That will probably see me out anyway.  If he reads the
> >minutes of the Oireachtas committees relating to environmental matters he 
> >will
> >see I never had faith in these machines.
> >
> >  Mr. Gilmore: That is true.
> >
> >  Mr. McCormack: Why is it costing more to store these machines in 
> >  Waterford
> >than anywhere else?
> >
> >  Mr. Cuffe: It is a vexing issue.
> >
> >  Mr. McCormack: There has been no answer to my question.  I have 
> >  researched
> >the figures.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: Courtesy demands we wait until Deputy Cuffe asks his 
> >  question.  I
> >will then answer all three questions.
> >
> >  Mr. Cuffe: My question concerns the storage of these damned machines.  In
> >March, the Minister assured us he was working with the Department of 
> >Defence to
> >find centralised safe storage for these infernal machines.  Has the 
> >Minister
> >made any progress in this matter?
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: Yes, but for the reasons stated by Deputy O'Dowd one has to 
> >  ensure
> >that conditions are correct for the machines.
> >
> >  Mr. Gilmore: Deputy O'Dea will look after them.
> >
> >  Mr. O'Dowd: Put them in Willie's care.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: We do not wish to upset the machines.  With regard to the 
> >  point
> >made by Deputy McCormack, who is always impatient for an answer, the cost 
> >was
> >in the terms of the contract.
> >
> >  Mr. McCormack: Why was this so?
> >
> >  Acting Chairman: The Minister should be allowed continue without
> >interruption.  We have gone well over time.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: A contract was drawn up with the returning officer in
> >Waterford-----
> >
> >  Mr. McCormack: The man who wanted the machines so badly is storing them 
> >  in
> >Waterford now.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: The Deputy is making it-----
> >
> >  Mr. McCormack: He would not listen to anybody only himself.
> >
> >  Acting Chairman: The Minister, without interruption.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: In that case he is a bit like the Deputy because he never 
> >  listens
> >to anybody either.
> >
> >  Acting Chairman: We will move on to Question No. 10.
> >
> >  Mr. McCormack: I listen to the electorate, otherwise I would not be 
> >  here, no
> >more than the Minister would if he did not listen to them.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: I suggest that the Deputy examine what his party did in Meath 
> >  in
> >putting out a superb leaflet praising electronic voting.
> >
> >  Mr. O'Dowd: Put your face on it.
> >
> >  Mr. Roche: Deputy Gilmore asked a specific question and I will 
> >  communicate
> >the figure to him.
> >
> >  Mr. McCormack: The Minister should read the minutes of the committee 
> >  meetings
> >to find out who was against the issue.
> >
> >  Acting Chairman: I call Question No. 10.
> >
> >  Mr. O'Dowd: The Minister is asleep.
> >
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> >
> > 
> >
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Colm MacCárthaigh                        Public Key: colm+pgp at stdlib.net

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