Lobby groups hail e-voting report

7 Jul 2006

Two independent groups that had been critical of the Government’s move to introduce e-voting have welcomed the latest report of the Commission on Electronic Voting (CEV).

In statements released yesterday, the Irish Computer Society (ICS) and Irish Citizens for Trustworthy E-voting (ICTE) welcomed the publication of the report which concluded that the Nedap/Powervote voting machines were broadly acceptable but declared that the associated counting software and PCs need to be improved.

The ICS had supported the introduction of electronic voting in principle but had highlighted specific failings of the proposed system that was due to have been introduced countrywide in 2004. ICTE, a lobby group of concerned citizens and academics, had been calling for a voter-verified audit trail as a way to reassure the public that the e-voting systems were recording votes accurately – a stance backed by the ICS.

The ICS claimed that some of its recommendations were endorsed by the CEV, including better provision for disabled voters and the addition of facility to abstain or spoil one’s vote in secret. ICS chief executive Jim Friars commented: “The Commission have taken the correct approach in their thorough analysis of the e-voting system and the ICS is in agreement with their resulting recommendations. I would propose that any future work of this Commission should continue to use consultation, particularly with specialist bodies like the ICS, in order to maximise its effectiveness.”

Margaret McGaley, spokesperson for ICTE, said the group was satisfied that the report vindicated its concerns about this e-voting system, noting the reference to the need for a voter-verified paper audit trail on page 153 and the need to entirely replace the vote-management section of the system, cited on page 14 of the report.

The Government seems set to introduce the system at some point but McGaley pointed out the expense that the necessary modifications would entail. “We should not decide to use this system without doing a full cost-benefit analysis both for the system as a whole, and from this point on,” she said. “The changes laid out by the Commission are extensive. They will require a significant investment of both time and money to implement and we need to ask if this system is worth it.”

By Gordon Smith