[E-voting] Epic leak of commission report

Colm MacCarthaigh colm at stdlib.net
Sun Jul 2 10:07:42 IST 2006

As yet, no way to verify. If true, I do wonder if section 27 of of the
2004 act (including 1,500 euro fines) will be invoked;


Û52m voting system fails to pass test
Richard Oakley

THE Irish government will come under increased pressure over the
controversial Û52m electronic voting system with the publication this
week of an investigation into its accuracy and secrecy.
It is understood that an independent commission will say the system
cannot be used in its current form, and will outline a number of
necessary changes. This will mean further tests and delays, while the
e-voting bill rises by almost Û1m a year.

The commissionÕs report, to be given to the ceann comhairle on Tuesday,
points to the current international trend of having a verifiable paper
trail with electronic voting systems. The Irish one currently cannot
supply this, which means voters can have no guarantee their selection is
recorded by the machine.

A print-off facility was recommended by independent experts when the
system was first proposed for use in Ireland, but was ruled out by the
Department of the Environment. Two weeks ago the taoiseach rejected
criticism of the lack of a paper record and suggested it was

Calling for printed receipts is technically outside the scope of the
Commission on Electronic Voting, but is included in its report. If
changes were made to the way Irish elections are counted Ñ whereby a
proportion of surpluses are selected at random Ñ a paper trail could
also be used to prove that votes were counted properly by the machines.
This would mean all transferred votes in the case of a surplus were
counted instead of a selection, as is currently the case.

The report will also include the results of software tests carried out
on the e-voting system. Nedap/Powervote, the Dutch manufacturer, has
claimed that it can be trusted, but the commission in its last report
said it could not independently verify this as it was unable to get
access to the softwareÕs code in time to test it.

Opposition TDs are demanding that electronic voting be dropped following
an admission by the government that it will not be ready in time for the
general election, due next May.

The first report by the commission was published by the ceann comhairle
as soon as he received it and it is expected this one will be made
available next Tuesday. It means the government parties, already rocked
by events of recent weeks, will have yet another controversy to deal
with before the Dail recess on Thursday.

More than Û52m has been invested so far, with the government paying out
Û700,000 a year for storage of the machines in premises around the
country. Introducing a paper trail would add significantly to the cost
of the system, while any problems with the software identified by the
commission will create further difficulties and lead to more expense.

Yesterday Pat Rabbitte, the leader of the Labour party, said the
governmentÕs introduction of electronic voting was a Òdisastrous
miscalculationÓ and it Òshould cut its losses nowÓ.

ÒThe government was warned by experts that there were potential problems
with electronic voting, yet they pushed ahead with it,Ó he said. ÒThey
did so without the consent of the Oireachtas and spent Û52m. As it
stands, the machines are not going to be used in the next general
election and they are costing almost Û1m to be stored.Ó

The taoiseach has pointed out that the same e-voting machines are in use
elsewhere and questioned the need for a paper trail. ÒIt is hard
internationally to explain how we, the worldÕs greatest exporters of
software, have a difficulty and still want to use pens and pencils,Ó he
said in the Dail.

Colm MacCárthaigh                        Public Key: colm+pgp at stdlib.net

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