Cullen’s waffle

Below is Martin Cullen’s downright misguided and ill informed statement on e-voting. Adrian Colley deals with him point by point here.

Statement By Minister Martin Cullen TD On Electronic Voting

2nd March

There have been many constructive contributions to the debate on
electronic voting. Regrettably however there have also been several
ill-informed contributions. Sometimes this is a result of people simply
not having done their homework. In other cases it is mischief making and
attention seeking. In the interests of clarity I would like to make the
following points:
Contrary to some claims, the up front costs for the introduction of electronic voting are 43 million including VAT. While cost savings have not been our primary concern, it is expected that substantial
savings will be made in electoral administration, particularly
surrounding the count procedures. The vast bulk of the expenditure on
this project is a once-off capital expenditure to purchase the voting
machines, which have a life-span of some 20 years. .

The integrity of the new electronic system has been vigorously tested by
six independent, internationally accredited test institutes:

* Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), the German institute
which tested the voting machine software, confirming that it
performs all the tasks required and that it has sufficient
internal checks to identify any attempted interference.
* Nathean Technologies, an Irish software firm, undertook an
architectural code review of the election software and concluded
that the code does not contain elements which can corrupt the
correct running of the software.
* The Electoral Reform Society in the UK tested the PR STV (Single
Transferable Vote) count rules against the 400+ STV elections in
their database to ensure that the rules have been precisely
applied.
* Zerflow Information Security Ltd undertook a rigorous security
assessment of the system and confirmed that the measures
introduced following the initial pilot elections have addressed
any concerns they have with the system.
* Kema Quality BV (accredited by Dutch Council for accreditation)
examined and certified the physical voting machine components.
* TNO, the Dutch Electronic Products and Services company tested the
voting machine and supporting equipment for compliance with
international standards for environmental conditions (such as
temperature, humidity, power supply voltage and interruptions,
electromagnetic compatibility, insulation, energy consumption and
transportation).

In response to claims that Microsoft Access is not a suitable
application for counting the votes, the Department has received expert
advice on this issue from Nathean Technologies who reviewed the use of
Microsoft Access in stand-alone security-hardened computers for the
counting of votes and certified that it is fit for use in the elections.
Furthermore, the election management system being used in Ireland has
also been used in Holland and Germany with no problems and is also being
adopted in France.

It is also worth noting that the votes stored in the ballot modules will
be intact and kept by the returning officers for a period of six months.
If so ordered by the Courts, all the votes cast in the election can be
printed out and counted manually.

The people elected should be the people with the most votes at the end
of the count. With the Irish electoral system, seats can be decided by
the smallest of differences. Indeed, at the last General Election,
seats in 18 constituencies were decided by less than the number of
spoiled votes. Similarly, there were 40 local electoral areas where
councillors were elected by less than 50 votes. At the last Local and
European Elections, 70,000 people who took the time to go and vote had
their votes declared invalid.

This is a system which can end the problem of inadvertent spoiled votes
and make sure that our elections are more accurate and therefore more
democratic.

The system is also being introduced as it is an easier method for voters
to cast their votes, it counts votes more accurately and more speedily
and it will improve electoral administration.

Our democracy is strengthened by vigorous debate. I would suggest that
it is not too much to ask that this debate be informed and wild claims
be subject to the scrutiny they deserve.

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