Lies, votes and Martin Cullen: What is the government up to?

I’ve had it. The Irish government’s position on e-voting is absolutely untenable. The more I read of the what the government believes, the more vehement in opposing it I become. The international media, and indeed the online community has thus far failed to notice the huge issues involved in the debate in Ireland.

The people:
Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen (Fianna Fail), responsible for implementation of electronic voting.

The organisations:
Fianna Fail (Biggest political party, in power now)
Irish Citizens for Trustworthy e-Voting, lobbying for a paper trail – at least.
Fine Gael – opposition party
Nedap/Powervote - the company making the machines. (A system that claims to be 100% accurate)

To my knowledge, Ireland will be the first country to introduce a total electronic voting system with absolutely no means of verification. And for my international audience here are some shocking facts about how electronic voting was introduced:

1. There was no independent Electoral Commission to decide on a system. This meant that the government in power decided to change the entire Irish electoral system, without reference to anybody.

2. The Minister responsible for the initial introduction of e-voting, and the Minister reponsible for the implementation of e-voting, are both former and present Directors of Elections for the political party currently in power (Fianna Fail). The conflict of interest issues here are obvious.

3. The PR consortium chosen to market the new system has dubious connections with Fianna Fail. A company of the consortium is run by a former Fianna Fail general secretary Martin Macken, and a former adviser to the current Prime Minister, Jackie Gallagher. Added to that, the former election manager of Martin Cullen, Monica Leech, sat on the panel that awarded the €4.5m contract to the consortium.

4. The Minister responsible has consistently ignored expert technical advice, and repeatedly claimed that the system being implemented has been fully tested. He has claimed that there are no working examples of a verifiable paper trail in the world. He has refused to accept that a paper trail might be needed. Oh and he lied, and lied, and lied. Keep scrolling.

If this happened in any other country, there would be a revolution.

You can listen to Martin being interviewed here. Its in the last 35 minutes of the show.

Furthermore, here is a parliament debate from yesterday:

Mr. Allen: How can the Minister reconcile his bluster regarding the
technological strength of the system with the statement released
yesterday by the Irish Computer Society – which is the policy committee
- and its chief executive for software engineering who said that any
electronic voting system must include a paper-based voter verified
audit trail because it is the only way to prove or disprove the accuracy
of the electronic count? How does the Minister match that statement from
the Irish Computer Society with the Brazilian experience?

If the Minister is so strong in his belief in the technological strength
of the system, will he tell me how the software will address the
petitions function and how it will be applied in the case of a court
challenge to an electoral decision? Will he give me a straight answer to
that question? The Minister should put aside his bluster about the
strength of the system because he is on shaky technological ground. He
is creating a crisis of confidence in the electoral system which can
only be put right by the Government admitting that some major
outstanding questions have not yet been answered.

Mr. Cullen: If Deputy Allen wants to align himself with the group
that held the press conference yesterday, that is fine.

Mr. Allen: My questions have nothing to do with the group.

Mr. Cullen: The Deputy specifically asked me about the group.

Mr. Allen: The Minister should not misrepresent me. I said the Irish
Computer Society.

Mr. Cullen: I disagree with the group. It is talking about two
completely different systems. It is not commenting on this one. Let us
be clear – this is also a matter for the Fine Gael and Labour parties.
The group is opposed to all forms of electronic voting.

Mr. Allen: I asked the Minister a question; I did not ask about the
group.

Mr. Cullen: I am answering it. If the Deputy wants the information,
I will give it to him but he should, please, allow me to answer.

Mr. Allen: Will the Minister answer the question I asked?

Mr. Cullen: The Deputy did this the last day also. If he wants me to
respond, I will.

Mr. Allen: To the question I asked.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Order, please.

Mr. Cullen: These are the points I want to make. The group is not
dealing with the system about which we are talking. If it wants to deal
with a paper trail system, of which there is none anywhere in the world
- the Deputy referred to Brazil, on which I commented directly

If you need an example of political waffle/bluster/bullshit, whatever you want to call it, this is it.

And more. For weeks now Cullen has said that when machines were used during the Nice Referendum there were no complaints or issues arising…and now:

Question No. 30
Chun an Aire Comhshaoil, Oidhreachta agus Rialtais Áitiúil:
To the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
the number of persons, in respect of the constituencies in the general
election and the second Nice Referendum in which electronic voting was
used, who signed in but did not then press the cast vote button; the
reason these were not counted as spoiled votes; the further reason they
were not included in the overall turnout figures; and if he will make a
statement on the matter.
– Mary Upton. For ORAL answer on Thursday, 4th March, 2004.
Ref No: 7132/04

REPLY

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Cullen)

Electoral legislation in relation to paper based voting addressed the
phenomenon of spoilt votes and required returning officers to discard
these for the purposes of the valid poll. Aggregated information on such
spoilt votes has traditionally, but not as a legal requirement, been
published as part of official election returns.

Because the electronic voting and counting system is designed to prevent
unintended spoiling of votes, the above legislative provisions, based
on paper ballots, are explicitly disapplied from electronic voting and
counting.

Instead, new legislative provisions require a record to be kept of
deactivations of the voting machine, in the event that a person
approaches the voting machine but departs without pressing the ‘cast
vote’ button.

On the basis of an improvement to the electronic voting machine
implemented since the 2002 pilot exercises, records of all deactivations
will in future be stored by the machine and be available as part of the
election statistics provided by the system.

This recording feature was not incorporated in the version of the
machine used in 2002. At the general election and Nice 2 referendum,
returning officers were required manually to record the incidence of
deactivations in
polling stations.

While my Department understands that this manual recording was carried
out, aggregate results were not in the event published by returning
officers in the official election returns.

In the context of my Department’s information booklet on referenda
generally which is published periodically, my Department will seek to
include information regarding deactivations in the constituencies which
employed electronic voting at the Nice 2 referendum. From information
available from the areas concerned, some 500 deactivations would have
been recorded across the 7 constituencies compared with 270,124 votes
validly cast.

500 deactivations? If you did listen to that radio exerpt you will notice that Cullen forgot, or remembered to forget, that little fact.

Conclusion? The government are changing the electoral system for motives unknown. The arrogance expressed, and the determination shown is not indicative of rational politics, or giving two shits about the democratic rights of the Irish people. There must be a motive, a reason why Cullen is being so arrogant. One theory, the long held Fianna Fail wish to get rid of Proportional Representation. Another, corruption. Another, downright and outright stupidity.

3 Responses to “Lies, votes and Martin Cullen: What is the government up to?”

  1. raptor says:

    Electronic voteing like any other is frought with dangers only more so. How does this system varify that the voter is who they say they are and if a person is properly identified how can the system ensure that this person is the one who voted. The paper system currently employed in the six counties would not be permitted by international observers in a foreign country yet we have this system where the voter is identified by the number on his ballot paper and should somone wish to do so, the way each person voted can be checked. An electronic system ensureing each voters right to his vote could be even more open to abuse. To accept a politicians assurance that the system cannot be fiddled would be laughable.

  2. Gavin says:

    All too true Raptor

  3. [...] the story is fairly straightforward. The PR consortium chosen to market the new [e-voting] system has dubious connections with Fianna Fail. A company of the consortium is run by a former Fianna Fail general secretary [...]