Minister “too busy” to meet with e-voting group

18 Mar 2004

Irish Citizens for Trustworthy E-Voting, the lobby group calling for a verifiable audit trail in electronic voting systems in Ireland, has expressed disappointment that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Martin Cullen TD, has refused to meet with them to address their concerns.

A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment confirmed that the Minister “hadn’t been in a position” to meet with the ICTE and that he had been “too busy”. He claimed that the situation had been overtaken by events. “The Minister has appointed an independent commission and they can make a submission to them.”

Earlier this month the Government bowed to public concern over its proposed introduction of electronic voting and appointed a five-person panel to report on the secrecy and accuracy of the system. The Electronic Voting and Counting Commission is currently accepting submissions from all interested parties and is due to make an initial report 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. It can also recommend whether the controversial system be used or not during the local and European elections in June, when it had been scheduled for full nationwide rollout.

However, ICTE representative Colm MacCárthaigh said that his group had made several attempts to arrange a meeting with the Minister long before the independent commission was established. “The idea of using the commission as a reason for not meeting us is false,” he told He added that statements elsewhere in the press that the group had already met with the Minister were “categorically untrue”.

MacCárthaigh rejected the idea that making a submission to the e-voting panel would be sufficient to cover all of the group’s concerns and he said that meeting the Minister face-to-face was necessary. “Ultimately, the person responsible for electronic voting is the Minister for the Environment, so it’s certainly an office worth informing. From all the statements we’ve seen to date, the Minister doesn’t appear to be informed.”

Nonetheless, the ICTE plans to make a submission to the commission next Monday and it is currently formulating a written response. It will also check the possibility of making a presentation in person, if the commission decides it can accept this kind of submission.

By Gordon Smith