[E-voting] Today's Irish Times

Keith Martin keith at keith.gs
Fri Jul 7 09:40:04 IST 2006

 From today's Irish Times:

E-voting company warns of cost of modifying all 7,500 machines

Liam Reid and Eithne Donnellan

The manufacturers of the State's electronic voting machines have  
warned that all 7,500 voting machines would have to undergo  
significant work at an unknown cost if the recommendations of the  
Commission on Electronic Voting are to be implemented.

The Government has suggested that the recommendations relating to the  
voting machines would require minor work.

Similar work to that suggested in the report cost nearly ?2,500 per  
machine during an upgrade of 1,000 of the machines three years ago,  
although no estimate has been given on the cost of the current work.

This work would be in addition to the replacement of vote-counting  
software on the central PCs in the system, which the commission found  
to be substandard, and which could cost between ?3 million and ?5  

The report, published last Tuesday, said the machines were of "good  
quality and design" but that changes to their controls and bodywork  
were needed to make them more secure and easier to use. It also  
advised modifications to the software in the machines.

Henk Steentjes, chief technical officer of Nedap, the Dutch company  
that made the system, said a cost could not be put on the work  
required, but that it could be significant, because every machine  
would have to be changed.

"There is a magnifying factor, even with a small change," he said.  
"You have [ more than] 7,000 identical machines, these are stand-alone  
units, and any change that is made has to be made 7,000 times."

Changes to the software require technicians to open each machine,  
remove the existing software and replace it with the updated version.

"You then have to go through a very thorough test of the software," Mr  
Steentjes said.

The recommendations to change the user controls on the machines, and  
to make the machines easier to identify as being genuine e-voting  
machines, would also require the same type of complex process, he said.

"In its conclusions, the commission says the security issues [  
relating to the machines] are of a minor importance, so the cost of  
any changes has to be seen against that and against the money already  
invested, and I hope people will take a balanced view," Mr Steentjes  

The system has cost ?52 million to date, ?46 million of which was  
spent on the machines.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Mary Harney has said she was in strong agreement  
with the commission's recommendation for an independent electoral  

"I think how elections are organised should not be a matter for the  
government of the day or the political system. It should be done on an  
independent basis."

© The Irish Times

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