[E-voting] Flashback to 2003

Catherine Ansbro cansbro at eircom.net
Sat Nov 28 11:36:19 GMT 2009

Fascinating stuff, Shane.

* Is there any way we can find out which individuals made the decision 
to purchase?
* What connections (or lobbying?) might they have had with any 
principals supplying the products/services?
* Were there pressures coming from other directions, whether national or 

In the USA there is a revolving door phenomena between the election 
industry, e-voting company lobbyists, and election administration 
officials (civil servants in relevant local or national government). 
Someone might be a county election administrator, then get hired by an 
e-voting company, then become a lobbyist for the industry and promote 
e-voting to election administrators, for example. There are constant 
musical chairs, meaning that vested interests are deeply embedded within 
local and national government decision-making and policy-making.

In Ireland, the technology issues have been explored in depth, the 
financial cost has been explored in depth, and some background info on 
the companies is understood by the likes of Joe McCarthy (if still not 
public knowledge). But what do we know, if anything, about any links, 
communications, and past positions/relationships between people who were 
promoting this decision and the officials who pressed the button and 
issued the contracts? Shane highlights that actually we know very little 
about the "back story"--and perhaps this is the most important part for 
us to find out at this point, if we have any interest in transparency in 
policy and policy-making and open government.

I'll never forget being at the local gov't committee meeting (18 Dec) 
when Joe, Margaret & others presented eloquently the extent of the 
technical risks, and the committee issued orders subsequently gave 
instructions to hold off signing a contract. But a week or so later we 
learned that a contract had been signed (the next day? or previously?).

Which insiders decided it was accepted gov't policy to purchase the 
machines (and who was promoting this view), when the committee had just 
decided to hold off? What was the sequence, and who were the real 
influencers? Was it different government ministers (e.g. Noel Dempsey 
who had brought in the idea) or was it truly coming from completely 
outside the government?


Shane Hogan wrote:
> I’m reading Pat Leahy’s book “Showtime – The inside story of FIanna 
> Fail in power” at the moment, courtesy of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown 
> Library Services. For anyone with a passing interest in politics, it 
> is a fascinating chronicle of the Bertie years. The eVoting saga is 
> covered over a couple of pages, largely to give some context for the 
> treatment of Martin Cullen by Bertie. Joe McCarthy is mentioned as 
> “the politician’s nightmare – independent, intelligent and au-fait 
> with the technology”. The interesting angle in the book (which was 
> news to me all those years later) is that he puts the blame squarely 
> on the relevant officials (and not the Minister) for rushing through 
> the €42m purchase of the main batch of voting machines. Here’s an extract;
> “One day, Cullen was having a regular meeting with his senior staff, 
> reviewing the disaster that the issue was turning into. Cullen’s 
> advisers were wondering was it possible to abandon the thing 
> completely. Without warning, the civil servants dropped a bombshell: 
> the department had gone ahead and placed an order for the machines in 
> accordance with government policy and policy the minister had adopted 
> as his own. The cost was €42 million. Jesus Christ, thought one of 
> Cullen’s advisers. They’re supposed to be on our side; this is going 
> to bury us.”
> Interesting stuff.
> Shane
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