Ireland faces �50m e-voting write-off

R.A. Hettinga rah at
Mon Feb 7 06:56:00 PST 2005


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Ireland faces ¤50m e-voting write-off
By (feedback at
Published Friday 4th February 2005 12:16 GMT

A lack of public confidence in e-voting means that Ireland may be forced
into writing off its ¤50m investment in electronic ballot systems.

Michael Noonan, chairman of the Dail Public Accounts Committee, expressed
doubts that the current system will ever be introduced, after last year's
debacle where plans to initiate e-voting were scrapped over security
concerns, the Irish Times reports. Even if the system is found to be safe,
few ministers would give it the go-ahead because the public would have
little trust in it, he told the newspaper.

Noonan made his comments ahead of an inquiry into expenditure on the
e-voting initiative. Officials from the Department of Environment are due
before the committee today to answer criticisms over the the scheme.

The civil servants are likely to be subjected to a serious grilling on why
security concerns were not addressed before ¤50m was spent on e-voting
systems. The storage of the unused e-voting machines is estimated to cost
Irish taxpayers up to ¤2m per annum.

Fine Gael, Ireland's biggest opposition party, has attacked the Government
over the fiasco. "The criticisms contained in the report of the Independent
Commission on Electronic Voting make it clear that this was a fiasco of the
highest order," Fergus O'Dowd TD, Fine Gael spokesman on the Environment,
said. "Considering all the information that is available to him, Minister
Roche needs to fully explain the findings of these inquiries."

"Is it now the case, as feared, that the government will have to write-off
the ¤50m spend on electronic voting because of the botched handling of the
project? I will be raising the issue through Fine Gael's priority questions
in the Dail early next week. The Minister must give some definite answers."

The Irish government had planned to introduce e-voting at local and
European elections on 11 June 2004. But it abandoned the idea, following a
report of the Independent Commission on Electronic Voting (ICEV) which
raised doubts over the accuracy of the software used in the system.

According to the Irish Citizens for Trustworthy Evoting (ICTE) submission
to the commission, the Nedap/Powervote electronic voting system had a
fundamental design flaw because it had no mechanism to verify that votes
would be recorded accurately in an actual election. Consequently, results
obtained from the system could not be said to be accurate, ICTE said.

Other flaws identified included possible software errors and the use of the
graphical user interface programming language Object Pascal for a
safety-critical system.

Although ICEV's remit was advisory, the government accepted its
recommendation that the system should not be used until further testing had
established the effectiveness of its security.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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