[E-voting] Laughing stocks and all that

Aengus Lawlor aengusl at eircom.net
Fri Jul 6 11:43:51 IST 2007

On Thursday, July 05, 2007 11:18 AM [EDT],
Peter Ryan <peter.ryan at newcastle.ac.uk> wrote:

> I have always understood the term  "supervised voting" to refer to
> voting at a polling station, making the selection in the isolation of
> a booth with official supervision etc. as opposed to remote voting,
> over the internet, phone whatever, where isolation cannot be
> guaranteed and so coercion is a serious threat.
> The context here seems different though.

Here's the full text of the piece on the News at One:

Sean O'Rourke Meanwhile, the realities of political life have been brought
home to the Green Party again as their councilors prepare to exercise their
franchise in the election of the new Seanad. 49 of the 60 seats will be
filled by TDs, outgoing Senators, and members of County and City Councils.
But some Green councilors are balking at the idea of supervised voting for
the Seanad elections. Stephen Collins, political editor of the Irish Times
joins us now. Stephen, what's their problem?

Stephen Collins: Well, the problem is having supervised voting as you say,
they find that this is an intrusion, and in fact it's illegal, the political
parties have done this over the years, the big parties, FF, and I think FG,
have tried to ensure that their councilors vote in ways party headquarters
would like, and at times ballots have been supervised. There have been deals
before, the PDs voted for FF candidates at the last election, and in return
got Seanad seats. Again, there was talk of the votes being supervised. But
in fact it is illegal to supervise voting and the Green councilors have
legitimacy making that point.

SOR: And, sorry Stephen, we'll come back to the illegalities or otherwise of
it in a minute. When the Party headquarters sets out to supervise voting by
councilors, what actually happens?

SC: Well what happens is, Councilors get their votes, their ballots papers
in the post, but they have to have a witness, a specified person to witness
that they have voted in the correct manner, and this declaration, usually a
county manager signs the declaration which goes into another envelope but
what the parties try and do is get the councilors in a group together so
that as well as the county manager verifying that it's been done legally,
the parties can have influence over how the councilors vote, and some Green
councilors are simply objecting to this. They're also objecting to being
asked to vote for specified FF candidates. I think Green councilors
understand the basis of the deal they've done with FF, they're prepared to
vote for FF but they want a choice themselves, that they should exercise
their own choice as to which FF candidates they'll vote for, rather than
being told by FF headquarters which candidates they should support

SOR: And how was it proposed, within the Green Party, that councilors would
have their voting supervised.

SC: Well the Green councilors, as I understand it, got an e-mail from Party
Headquarters saying that in order to, that the green party could assure FF
that the deal had been delivered on that the Green councilors votes would
be inspected. Now I think that issue is being reconsidered at the moment and
in view of the legalities of the situation, I think any formal inspection
won't now happen, but I think the green councilors will be urged to vote for
a number of named FF candidates

SOR: And presumably, Stephen, it's illegal because people are entitled to a
secret ballot in this Republic?

SC: Absolutely, that is the bottom line. I checked yesterday, just with the
Houses of the Oireachtas, with the Press Officer, who quoted the law, and
the law is everyone is entitled to the secret ballot, and it's in fact it's
illegal to tamper with the notion of the secret ballot. Now you get into a
grey area, I was talking to some Senate candidates from other parties who
says it's illegal to be forced to have your ballot paper inspected but if
you want to show your ballot paper to somebody, that may not be illegal, and
there are ways of applying pressure, and there are ways that parties have
used in the past to get councilors to vote in a certain way. But I think
it's not just the Green councilors, I think other parties councilors too are
getting a bit restive about this, and they want to be able to vote for the
candidates that they want to vote for without any supervision.

SOR: Stephen, thanks for that analysis.


It sounds as though the County Manager (or other specified person) is
responsible for the "supervision" that you're talking about, ensuring that
the person submitting the ballot is the person who is entitled to submit it,
but he's not "supervising" it in the sense of verifying that the councilor
votes the way he's been told to vote. But there's little doubt that the rest
of the scenario outlined would be considered highly illegal if ordinary
voters were doing it, but apparently Bertie thinks it's a perfectly
reasonable way to run a 21st Century "democracy". (Bertie has something of a
history of showing his ballot paper to people to assure them that he's "done
right by them", but that's another story).


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