[E-voting] Irish times articles on CEV report timing, storage costs

Colm MacCarthaigh colm at stdlib.net
Sat Jun 17 22:34:54 IST 2006

>From the latest round of kite-flying and leaks we have two IT articles,
notice in particular John McGuinness as chief kite-flyer, and also that
by some miraculous means the Irish Times has circumvented the secrecy of
the CEV and come up with an apparent "due date" for the report (within
the next three weeks).


Cost of storing voting machines Û696,000 a year Vice-chairman of D‡il
committee suggests machines should be scrapped
Martin Wall

The bill for storing the 7,500 electronic voting machines around the
country is now running at just under Û700,000 per year, the D‡il Public
Accounts Committee heard yesterday.

The secretary general of the Department of the Environment, Niall
Callan, said the storage bill for this year would be Û696,000. This
represents an increase of around Û38,000 over last year's figure.

He said the Department of the Environment was in discussions with the
Department of Defence about having the machines stored centrally in Army
premises. However he said that there were issues of security, scale and
logistics to be decided.

Mr Callan said the independent commission that was examining the secrecy
and accuracy of the electronic voting system was continuing its work and
would produce a report shortly.

He said that external consultants engaged by the department were also
looking in greater depth at the security of the system. However he said
that they had not yet finalised their report. Mr Callan said the
position of the department was that next year's general election would
be run on the basis of a paper ballot. However he said the final
decision would be a matter for a ministerial order when the D‡il was

Socialist Party TD, Joe Higgins, said that if, as expected, the
electronic voting machines were not used in next year's general election
that Û25 million to Û30 million could be wiped off the value of the
State's investment in depreciation before the time of the subsequent

He said that the e-voting machines only had a lifespan of 20 years and
that they would be in their 10th year by the time the election after
next came around.

Joan Burton, of the Labour Party, said that over their 20-year lifespan
the cost of storing the machines could run to Û14 million.

The vice-chairman of the committee, John McGuinness, of Fianna F‡il,
said the time had come for the department to consider scrapping the
machines as it was clear they would not be used in the near future.

He said the department should seek to secure the scrap value of the
machines. He said it should then engage in an exercise to build public
confidence about using technology for e-voting at some time in the

Committee chairman Michael Noonan, of Fine Gael, asked whether the
department had a contingency plan in the event of a ministerial decision
to use e-voting in the election.

He asked whether training would be provided in advance for returning
officers and their staff and whether premises would be vetted for
suitability for using the machines. Mr Callan said the department would
use its resources and make the best effort to work any decision handed
down to it.

Mr Noonan said that it was obvious that he was not going to get an
answer to a straightforward question.

Mr Callan also said the department was aware of concerns regarding
errors in the electoral register. He said local authorities had to deal
with greater movement of people than at any time in modern Irish

He said such concerns were not new and that as far back as 1986 the ESRI
had warned of inaccuracies in the register.

Buy-out of e-voting leases may cost State millions
Liam Reid, Political Reporter

The Government is facing a bill running into millions of euro if it
moves controversial electronic voting machines to a centralised

It has emerged that medium and long-term leases of up to 25 years have
been signed on 12 of the current storage facilities around the State.

New figures from the Department of the Environment show that of the 21
storage facilities more than half are being rented by returning officers
on leases of four years and nine months or more.

Last year Minister for the Environment Dick Roche announced that his
department was examining the possibility of centralised storage for the
7,500 machines after it emerged that the annual cost of storing the
machines is Û696,000.

An old air hangar at Gormanston, Co Meath, has been identified as the
most suitable central storage site, but the department is facing
significant costs in buying out many of the leases.

The Government has already said that the machines will not be used at
the next election.

The Commission on Electronic Voting is currently finalising its report
on the security and accuracy of the machines, and this is due to be
published by the time the D‡il finishes for its summer holidays in the
first week of next month.

The longest lease relates to Monaghan, where the returning officer
signed a 25-year lease at an annual rent of Û25,828 on premises where
288 machines are stored.

The owner of the storage facility is a nephew of the returning officer.
The returning officer has no beneficial interest in the building.

In Cork city the lease on the building, which is also owned by the
city's returning officer, is for 10 years, while in Dublin city the
premises, again owned by the Dublin city returning officer, is on an
eight-year lease.

The returning officers who have bought premises to store machines have
said it was the only option because they could not find suitable rental

Other long leases include Kerry (10 years), Kildare (nine years, nine
months), Meath (nine years, nine months) and Waterford City (10 years).

Storage facilities in Limerick, Longford and Westmeath are on leases of
four years and nine months. Most of the leases date back to two years

In a written response to the D‡il providing information, Mr Roche said
"it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage on detailed costs
that might be involved in the buy-out of leases given the commercial
considerations involved".

Yesterday Labour environment spokesman Eamon Gilmore described the
situation as "completely daft" given that electronic voting has already
cost over Û50 million. "One of these leases is for longer than the
20-year lifespan of the machines." He said the department should examine
the possibility of selling the machines to another jurisdiction where
similar technology is used.

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

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