“Insufficient” testing sees Government delay e-voting

30 Apr 2004

The Government has announced that it will not be introducing e-voting in the upcoming European and local elections, following the publication earlier today of a report from the E-voting Commission which concluded that testing on the system had been “insufficient”.

Announcing the decision, Martin Cullen, Minister for the Environment and Local Government, said the Government had accepted the Commission’s findings that it was “unable to provide sufficient positive assurance, in the time available, in relation to using the chosen system of electronic voting at the June elections.”

Cullen added: “The government has decided that the electronic voting system will not be used at the June polls. These will be conducted in all constituencies on the basis of the traditional paper ballot. Arrangements will be in place to ensure the smooth and efficient running of the polls on 11 June.”

The Commission’s findings will be seen as a humiliating reversal for Cullen, who had insisted all along that the e-voting system was safe and accurate. The Government has already spent €40m on the e-voting machines and the accompanying large-scale public information campaign.

However, Cullen was adamant that e-voting was far from dead but that it simply needed further testing.

“The Commission has identified and acknowledged the benefits of electronic voting and the fact that the selected system can accurately and consistently record voter preferences. It emphasises that its conclusion is not based on any finding that the present system will not work, but on the desirability of allowing time for further testing and quality assurance. The Commission makes detailed and valuable recommendations for the conduct of this further testing.

“In light of these Commission conclusions, and following further detailed study of them, the Government is confident that a good framework can be established to progress electronic voting in Ireland,” he said.

Opponents of the new scheme warmly welcomed the Commission’s conclusions. In a statement, the Irish Citizens for Trustworthy Evoting said the Government should now accept that Electronic Voting must be accompanied by a voter-verified audit trail (VVAT).

“A voter-verified audit trail remains the only way the accuracy of any evoting system can be established,” said Colm MacCárthaigh, a spokesperson for the lobby group. “Over 150 of the 162 submissions to the commission were not in support of the proposed system and over half called for a voter-verified audit trail to be mandatory in any system, including the submission of the Irish Computer Society – the professional body for the IT industry,” he continued.

“The Commission’s report fully endorses the concerns expressed by IT experts and the Department of the Environment should now take time to reflect upon the report and finally meet with groups such as ICTE who have been requesting a meeting for many months now,” he added.

By Brian Skelly