Independent commission can make or break e-voting

3 Mar 2004

The panel established yesterday to check the Government’s proposed electronic voting system will have the power to recommend the system be postponed or abandoned.

The Electronic Voting and Counting Commission will provide at least one initial report on the secrecy and accuracy of the Nedap/Powervote system to the Ceann Comhairle on 1 May. The group has the power to review tests already undertaken on the system and to ask for new ones if it thinks this is necessary.

The group’s remit also includes producing subsequent reports at and after the June elections to check how the system worked in practice. However, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment confirmed that if the commission finds the e-voting system to be unsound, the Government will not press ahead with its introduction in the forthcoming local and European elections on 11 June.

The five-person commission appointed by the Government will be headed by Mr. Justice Matthew Smith, who is a judge of the High Court and chairman of the Standards in Public Office Commission. The group includes the Clerk of the Dáil Deirdre Lane and Clerk of the Seanad Kieran Coughlan, as well as the former president of DCU and former chair of the expert group on future skills needs, Dr. Danny O’Hare; Brian Sweeney, chairman of Siemens Ireland, who chairs the technology foresight group, is also on the commission.

Speaking about the group in the Dáil yesterday, the Taoiseach said it would have “satisfactory” terms of reference, although opponents of the system have said the group’s focus will be too narrow to be effective.

By Gordon Smith