[E-voting] Laughing stocks and all that

Fergal Daly fergal at esatclear.ie
Fri Jul 6 12:07:35 IST 2007

On 06/07/07, Aengus Lawlor <aengusl at eircom.net> wrote:
> 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.

This is what I find interesting. I do no believe that councillors are
people(!) They are elected representatives and responsible to their
constituencies. Mr Gombeen does not have a vote in the Seanad
elections, his council seat does. So (as ugly as it could get in this
situation) I believe the whole country is entitled to know how how
each and every _council seat_ voted. Otherwise there is no possibility
of accountability. The same goes for secret ballots in the Dail (are
there any?),


> SOR: Stephen, thanks for that analysis.
> http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0705/news1pm_av.html?2266153,null,209
> 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).
> Aengus
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