back to article Ireland scraps e-voting in favour of 'stupid old pencils'

Ireland is scrapping the ill-starred e-voting scheme on which it has already lavished upwards of €51m without a single vote being cast, the government announced today. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley said in a statement that "a process will now be put in place, including …


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  1. Chris Miller

    A modest proposal

    Government IT project:

    a) delivers no benefit

    b) costs too much

    c) doesn't work

    d) no voters want it.

    If only our 'leaders' this side of St George's Channel had the balls of our Irish cousins.

  2. Pierre

    Laughing stock?

    You mean, like the democratic-ish country in which most of the elections may be rigged thanks to the wide adoption of crappy Diebolds (or whatever name they go by these days) machines? If only I could remember the name... I seem to remember it's supposed to be a superpower of some kind though.

    Plus, the "stupid" pencils do work in outer space (even if the aforementioned superpower won't use them). Would it be the early signs of the Irish space-voting program?

  3. Keith T. Grey, Sr.

    Have the last laugh!

    As a US citizen who had to suffer from the questionable results of the 2004 election, I say to the citizens of Ireland: "Let them laugh at you, YOU WILL HAVE AN AUDIT TRAIL!!!".

    He who laughs last, laughs longest...

  4. Shane McCarrick

    They were used actualy

    Over 200 of the machines were in fact used in the 2002 elections- its not true to say a vote was never cast on the machines. Its also disengenuous to suggest that the curent financial situation Ireland finds itself in is the reason for scrapping the machines. The simple fact is that the machines have been in storage for almost 8 years, and are wholly obsolete at this stage. Public perception is that the machines are not to be trusted- and in the absence of public trust in its electoral system- they are damn right to dump the bloody things as fast as possible. The only shame is the 24m shelled out on storage costs for the machines over the past 8 years. If this was the extent of government waste in Ireland- the Irish taxpayer would be thrilled, unfortunately, its not.

  5. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    If it ain't broke...

    ... don't fix it!

    What is so wrong with the "stupid old pencils" system when it *works* perfectly well? Why is it necessary to replace it with something "modern" that has shown to be flawed and subject to (untraceable) abuse?

    Modernisation is all very well where it's needed, but doing it just because you can isn't sensible, as this debacle has demonstrated.

  6. Funkster
    Thumb Up

    Just because it cost a lot

    doesn't mean it's worth spending more on.

    Scrapping the system sounds like a pretty sensible move to me.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So how come the recession hasn't made us in the US any smarter?

  8. Efros
    Thumb Up

    Some semblance of sense

    Hopefully it will break out in the other democracies, let's face it, it's difficult to plant code into the OS of a HB Staedtler.

  9. Richard Kay

    e-voting is the laughing stock

    E-voters have to trust the exotic and rare skills of system security experts like yours truly to audit an otherwise opaque e-voting system. Why on earth should they ? Doing the whole election using pencil and paper methods means every one of the many election officials and counters who are involved can visibly see how the system works. If a system like this is to be improved upon it won't do this by removing the simple and obvious visibility of it to everyone involved with it.

    I teach systems security at university level and have also stood for city council elections and acted as election agent - and much prefer a voting system which doesn't require those who have paid for the specialised education I offer to be able to see that a system isn't rigged and is operated fairly. Frankly I've never met anyone I respect with knowledge of my subject who would want to touch any e-voting system that doesn't involve a paper trail which can be confirmed manually at every stage of the process. This should include printing a paper ballot inspected by the voter that goes into a traditional ballot box, usable as master copy manually to confirm the electronic count in the event of a close result or machinery dispute.

    Confidence in democracy starts with everyone knowing someone who is involved in the counting e.g. a council employee who is a friend or neighbour, and everyone involved being able to see what is going on.

    It's also not as if there aren't enough other systems that need securing that system security professionals are likely to be out of a job any time soon.

    Attempts to reduce the cost and time of voting tend to be based upon the assumption that speed and cost reduction are more important than transparency - which couldn't be further from the reality. The laughing stock was the country that had to have its supreme court judges decide whether votes allegedly spoiled by worn machinery weeks after election day (i.e. punched voting cards with hanging chads) had to be counted in an election to choose its President, not countries which use pencil and paper voting methods and can count all the votes within 24 hours.

  10. Stephen Lacy

    A bit of Background

    To give a bit of background to this:

    A Fianna Fail (Political Party pronounced 'Fee'ana Fall') and Progressive Democrats (Political Party) Government buys the evoting machines.

    College students point out how easily abused the system is and recommend that paper records be produced by electronic voting machines alongside electronic ones.

    Fianna Fail ignores the criticism and during the debate evoting gets a bad name.

    Evoting machines are then left to rust, no one notices the government are wasting lots of money as per usual (see Irish Health Service) until Progressive Democrats are voted out in the new election and the Green Party now headed by Gormley takes over.

    Luckily with the recesion Fianna Fail are unlikely to survive the next round, unfortunately the greens will probably go down with them as FF are masters of wafting the stink of general incompetance toward the nearest party.

    The reason this is generally allowed to happen in the country is because in Ireland the average person spends exessively so this doesn't seem unusual to us, again the recession is hear to save the day as spending is down massively.

  11. Christoph

    Stupid Old Pencils

    So they're bringing back the SOP method as SOP?

  12. Andy Bright
    Thumb Down


    Sorry, but evoting systems have been proven extremely insecure. Usually the companies involved in designing and producing such systems are far too open to cronyist corruption.

    Back doors, lack of transparancy, no paper trail and several documentaries that have shown how easy it is to modify them to produce voting patterns that the system's corporate owners would like to see. Probably at the behest of politicians they need in place in order to maintain their government contract gravy.

    The systems used in the US have been comprimised and things like thousands of 'lost' votes have never been accounted for in elections where these things are used.

    Sure, pencils and paper are hardly secure and equally open to abuse by corrupt officials, but at least they don't cost hundreds of millions to put into place.

    I have a huge problem paying for a system designed to cheat me out of my vote. And yes it is a shame that the people of Ireland were stiffed out of millions in taxes. But that's what government contracts are all about. If you put politicians in charge of money and you expect all of that money to spent honestly, you're a fucking idiot. They lie for a living, hardly the most trustworthy trait for the person holding your wallet.

    At least Ireland isn't as backward as the US, where they allow incumbent politicians run the very elections they're participating in.

  13. Tim Almond

    Problem that doesn't need automating

    Electronic voting offers limited benefits. The good things about computers are in areas of speed, number crunching, complex storage and communication. Voting as a process needs none of these.

    Does it matter if the result is known at 4am or 5am? No.

    Is it hard to tally votes? No.

    Is the information complicated that is captured, and does it require fast recall? No.

    Is there a lot of data to communicate? No.

    Add to this that there's a lot of setup costs for something done every few years, so unlike things like ATMs, you don't get the repeated processes that pay off the huge outlay on systems, and you realise that pencils are just fine for the job.

  14. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Crying Shame

    Surely the fact that there was no provision for an audit trail, would make any contract [the state was tied into a deal of up to 30 years for the machines] null and void in a democracy, as such an oversight would practically guarantee abuse? Any electronic system is easily hacked which is why they are used in backward and/or crooked and/or naive states/countries?

    In fact, to have thought that such a provision was fit for purpose and to have charged and received payment for it, would surely be grounds for a claim for repayment and punitive exemplary compensation. Taking advantage of t'ick Micks is just not on, old boy.

    And it reminds me of the tale of the millions the US spent on the Space Pen whilst the Russians took pencils on their missions.

  15. Stan

    Best news I've heard yet...

    ...regarding the Irish economy, that system was set up just shortly after Al Goa got a minus vote count in one state so the "everyone should see democracy in progress" comment should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    May need something stronger though, maybe a pot of mustard, if your really going to swallow it as the Lisbon treaty is back for another "vote" despite all the promises, bit of deja vue there, something about 2001 and Nice. Wonder if they will piggyback this one on another issue it 's impossible to vote "no" to as well?

    What hasn't been mentioned in this is the scandal of the storage of these contraptions after it was pointed out to the state they couldn't use them. This has cost the tax payer millions every year since they where purchased. Where they then put in the hands of a storage company or secure warehouse? Nope, they where put into various TS's (Irish MP's) garages, who where then given around 20000 a year per machine for their troubles, jobs for the boys from top to bottom.

    Meanwhile the boys with the jobs, our "leaders" who got us into our current mess are going about getting us out of it by screwing everyone they can, crippling public and private spending and paying themselves more than any other politicians in the western world. Thats not me talking crap, our big, fat waste of space of a Taoiseach gets payed more than Barack Obama. Can't type "earns" there, bullshit like that would wipe out every server between here and vulture central.

    Rant over.

  16. Cullen Newsom
    Black Helicopters

    He who laughs last...

    "The biggest loser will, no doubt, be the Irish people, as they are forced to shell out to extricate the government from the mess. "

    Haven't they already lost that money? In any case that is no reason to throw more money at a failed project.

    Let me be the first to laugh at the Irish politicians; who will have to continue stealing elections the old-fashioned way.

  17. Tom Paine
    Thumb Up

    pencils FTW

    Warm congratulations to the Irish for this sudden outbreak of common sense. Here's hoping the UK economy's fucked enough that we have to abandon ID cards and the police surveillance nonsense.

    I can't imagine anything more likely to destroy interest in the practice of democracy than Mega City One scenario where the results are announced by Barney, the city's main computer, 10 seconds after the polls close. The election night party, with wall-to-wall drinking, heated arguments, often not quite sure at 10 how things will be looking at 1, 2, 3am... is surely the best part of the whole sorry circus. I still have vivid memories of June 92 (I was working as a security guard at a well-known music company; at 2am, when it emerged that Major's incompetent, corrupt and incestuous Tory administration had somehow scraped back into power, the well-known cigar-puffing plutocrat who founded the company in the 60s ordered another half-dozen crates of champagne from the 24h wine merchant in Notting Hill Gate for his party. I meanwhile was crying into my warm Stella in a shabby, cramped front room in Seven Sisters, whose floor I would shortly be sleeping on... In 97 I'd taken the Friday off, and wandered up to Westminster in time to see Gordo waving for the cameras from the door of the Treasury with my very own actual eyes. *wistful sigh*. I remember thinking Labour could never possibly live up to all the hopes invested in them...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    'Revert' to 'laughing stock' status ?

    Have you got some beef with my country, or are you just another uneducated ignoramus who can't see beyond his own border.

    Mine's the country with the functioning democracy.

  19. Anonymous Coward



  20. Graham Marsden


    See Snopes for the truth about the Space Pen...

  21. kissingthecarpet

    A victory for rationality

    Co-incidentally there was a blog yesterday suggesting that GNU/Linux could be a good starting point for a polling machine - No, don't go near it.The last thing FLOSS needs is to be infected with that disease. Paper & pencil - you don't get much more open source than that.

    Hopefully all governments (especially our own dear politcos) will take notice of this sensible decision by the Irish. There was a time when all new tech was regarded as a good idea, & it probably was, most of the time, but now IT has become ubiquitous, we're going to have to draw the line(with a ruler & pencil ha ha) increasingly often.As it is,in the UK we've left it a bit late to start saying "Enough!".

  22. Herby

    Electronic means...

    Here in the wonderful state of California (left coast) we have a silly lottery that collects a "stupidy tax" from its users. I feel that this is a similar means to "voting" and it has (look, money is involved!) lots of audit trails. This shows that it CAN be done if there is a will. The bigger question is if it NEEDS to be done. The obvious answer to that is NO, as compared to the Stupidity tax collector (yes, I contribute as well), voting takes place a fraction of the times per year. Since going away from the punch cards and their hanging chad (which is almost impossible to purposefully make unless you spindle the cards) we have had the e-voting methods (touch screens) for a couple of elections, and now we have decided to use optical mark readers (pencils anyone!). Original ballots that my parents used before the punch cards were the big old fashoned ones that you used a dumb rubber stamp to put an 'X' in the proper box. The optical readers then were human, and all was well with the world. Now we are back to square one, which is probably a "good thing".

    The more things change the more they stay the same. (*SIGH*)

  23. RW

    Let us not forget mechanical voting machines

    Formerly (and perhaps still) widely used in the US. Never heard of the machines being at fault, but that isn't to say there were no voting irregularities. The collection of names of voters from tombstones is a staple of American electoral corruption.

    To parrot comments made by others elsewhere: the difficulty with using pencil & paper ballot in American elections is that the elections can offer many different things to vote on: Congressman, maybe Senator, Governor, one or two members of the state legislature, secondary state executive offices, judges, tax assessor, dog catcher, etc, plus (depending on the state) a raft of initiatives, referenda, constitutional amendments, and perhaps even a recall ballot or two.

    The old mechanical voting machines offered a single lever to pull to vote a "straight ticket" (all the nominees running under the same party's aegis).

    Moreover, the voter could change his/her mind to his/her heart's content before pulling the big red lever that rang a bell, registered the vote(s), and opened the privacy curtain.

    Say what you will THEY WORKED! And they were trusted.

    That's more than you can say of the flakey crap peddled by Diebold!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now all we have to do is to get rid of stupid 'oul Fianna Fail, how appropriate it that while it is pronounced "fall" it's spelling is FAIL.

    The real scandal is the way some of the machines are stored, some election officers took 25 year leases on premises to store the voting machines, and in the best tradition of Fianna Fail, they rented the premises from themselves.

    The one comment that really pissed me off was from Irish TD Michael Martin who said "we'll have to take a hit on that " (the €52M). The only people that should take a hit is our Irish TDs, preferably between the eyes.

    No wonder the Irish economy is fucked.

  25. Ceadunas Tiomana
    Thumb Down

    @Chris Miller

    You don't want that... believe me, you really don't want that

  26. Stuart Duel

    E-Voting is...

    ...a solution to a problem which doesn't exist.

    Congratulations for common sense prevailing in Ireland.

    Of course the biggest pushers of e-voting systems, apart from the corrupt game players such Diebold, is Big Business which always, at every election, cry about 'lack of certainty' of the outcome which is 'bad for the economy and business' because they have to 'wait for the vote to be counted'.

    Note to Big Business: Tough shit. You can just bloody well wait for the election result like everyone else. It's fun, it's exciting, sometimes excruciating and heart-breaking, especially if you're on the loosing side. But a paper vote count is reliable and accountable to the people and that has their trust and so have confidence in their democracy.

    But if recounting paper ballots takes a week or two for the result to be decided, then so be it. I'd rather a result I can trust than one that can never be reliably examined - or examined at all with some of these dodgy e-voting systems.

  27. skeptical i

    @RW, re: mechanical voting machines

    Plus, the satisfying 'ker-CHUNK" sound the pulled lever made seemed to better convey the importance of casting a ballot than the flashing light of the optical scanner widget or whatever "You've got ballot" audio alert the vote-eating, er, e-voting machines have. While they reportedly cost the bomb to store and maintain, it can't be more than the e-voting machines or the public's declining trust in election results.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    @Graham Marsden

    Right you are. I've been saying the same thing about health records.

  29. Matware


    Um, in Aus you can do the equivalent 'straight ticket' vote by putting a '1' above the line, or numbering all the boxes below the line.

    Pencil + Paper = Simple + Reliable

    What is it with engineers where we have to jump on the latest technological revolution to fix a problem that doesn't exist? I mean, mechanical voting machines!! How much work goes into designing that machine and setting one of those up vs one printing press and and a few hundred thousand pencils? It seems a touch pathological now I think about it.

  30. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Up

    Pencil and paper

    Tried, true and trusted.

    No need for IT at all here.

    Move along citizen...

  31. Manas Straw

    A Title is needed

    The comment from amanfromMars made a lot of sense to me. Time for me to seek treatment.

    On the other hand, we have been using electronic voting machines in India for several elections now. In fact, we have an election ongoing at the moment. There is a lot of trust in the machines and the entire process. The number of complaints about miscounting went down after the EVMs were introduced.

  32. Lars Silver badge

    Good decision, funny author

    Simple as that.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes stupid old pencils aren't enough

    Here in the UK we have an informal rule that no more than two elections, not including by-elections, can be held on the same day. So this year, to save money, the local elections and the Euro elections are being held together in June, in the unlikely event of Brown deciding to go to the country at the same time, one of those - most likely the locals - would be postponed by a month or so.

    In the US, they traditionally hold ALL of their elections on the same day, so voters aren't just electing the President, they're also electing their representatives in one or both houses of Congress, state senators and representatives, often the state governor, plus local candidates (and in some parts of the US all local offices are elected, including judgeships) plus often state / local referenda too.

    So you can see why the US has traditionally been an early adopter of mechanical and electronic voting systems. Try counting all that lot by hand.

  34. John Sturdy

    A bit more detail of the storage scandal

    See articles such as (or use a search engine to look for "irish e-voting storage nephew shed" for a bit more variety).

    Quote from another page:

    Josephine Duffy has denied any impropriety and said her nephew's steel frame shed in Scotstown, Co Monaghan, was the only suitable facility, even though he did not submit a tender.

    '[Being my nephew] didn't make a difference. I do not do deals with relations. It was between his solicitor and mine, " she said

    Mine's the one with a Friend of Bertie rifling the pockets. Still, it beats living under NuLab.

  35. Kevin Pollock

    Let's put this NASA pen vs Russian pencil myth to bed shall we?

    - BOTH countries began by using pencils

    - Pencils are dangerous in space (explained in the link)

    - A private company designed a pen to meet space requirements - they were not asked to do so by NASA

    - NASA didn't pay a penny towards the development

    - The pen worked as required, and was subsequently used by BOTH USA and Russia

    - It is also available to buy if that takes your fancy

  36. Andrew Moore

    Some corrections:

    @Stan- regarding "Wonder if they will piggyback this one on another issue it 's impossible to vote "no" to as well?"- Sorry that's an uniquely american issue- Doesn't happen here in Ireland.

    @RW- regarding "Never heard of the machines being at fault"- What about all that "hanging chad" crap we had to endure after the 2000 elections?

    @Ponder Stebbins- "The only people that should take a hit is our Irish TDs, preferably between the eyes." Agreed. These are the bastards that refuse to give up their "long service bonuses" even though it was decided in the budget.

  37. Alistair

    Separation of gubmint and hard working taxpayers

    How often journos cast one against the other. Its either "the taxpayer is going to have to bail out the gubmint" or vice-versa. Of course creating a conflict like this makes the story a lot more interesting.

    We are all in the same car, and there is limited choice over which direction we can take or how hard we press the accelerator pedal to the metal. Its just that every four years or so we get to choose which of the two drivers sits at the controls.

  38. Edward Miles

    Bloody Hell...

    Secure E-voting is NOT hard to set-up.

    Place your vote on the machine, it prints out a slip with your vote on that you check, then put in a ballot box outside. End of the day, electronic results are printed. THEN 10% of the ballot boxes are randomly selected, and manually counted. Any discrepancy between any of those boxes and the printed results, and a FULL recount of the paper votes is performed. As everyone is assumed to have checked their paper slip, the manually count takes precedence over the electronic count.

    Couple the above with releasing the software's source code for inspection, no access to the machines internals (For preference, the machine should be situated where the voter can't get at it, with just the touch-screen and printer in the booth with him/her)

    Whether or not this is cost-effective is, of course, an entirely different matter.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    recycle please

    Why not recycle them - they are covered by the e-waste statutes aren't they? Make the bloody National Parliament use them for every vote for the next thirty years ...

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing like a bit of political commentary

    @Andrew Moore

    Yes Andrew, I was listineng to one of these free loading FF back bench wankers with a basic salary of 100K for 90 of days of work, 20K in unvouched expenses, another 40K in vouched expenes, 30K for a constucincy office i.e. employ wife/son/daughter/in-bred cousin etc. gaurtenned 50% of saley inflation proff pension, on the radio yeterday, he was whinging about how much they had given up with the 1% levey and the pension levey. Shades of P Flynn and his three houses comment.

    I remember reading a while ago that in the same 10 year period of time that ober-furer Bertie Ahern, or to use the name on his birth certificate, Bart Aherne, received 21 pay rises that DOUBLED his salery, I was laid off twice, and I am now on the same salary I was on 8 years ago. In order to retire on a 50% pension I would need a pension fund of about €1.1M, after 30 years of work my pension fund is worh a tad over 22K (Special thanks to the wunch of bankers who charge me 3% "fees" for loosing 90% of my pension contributions).

    No wonder the Irish economy is fucked.

    In other news, it has emerged that former bertie/bart is getting paid a €2700 a year "constituency travel allowance", despite having a gardai-driven top of range merc and only lives 4 or 5 miles from the Dail. Bertie/Barts response was that he didn't realise he was receiving the allowance, this from an ex-minister of finance.

    No wonder the Irish economy is fucked.

    Meanwhile Education Minister Batt "Chopper" O’Keeffe uses an Air Corps helicopter to attend teacher conferences in Co Donegal and Co Kerry, a state car and garda driver was also dispatched to Donegal and Kerry collect Batt-man and drive him to and from his helicopter .

    No wonder the Irish economy is fucked.

    My heart bleeds for them. Up against the wall, the lot of them.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    @Edward Miles

    E-voting *is* demonstrably impossible to set up correctly.

    Some of the problems with your suggestion:

    - What happens if I vote for Party A, but the machine prints out a slip for Party B? I try again but the same thing happens. I have to call an election official into the booth to rectify the problem, thus voiding the secrecy of my ballot.

    - What happens if I deliberately take my printed slip home with me? I'm taking the chance that the 10% checks won't catch it but that's acceptable. Taking away evidence of how you voted allows voter coercion and vote selling.

    - No access to the machines? Machines would need to be stored for long periods between elections. They'd need to be transported to/from polling stations on the day of an election. Plenty of opportunity to tamper.

    - Releasing the source code doesn't guarantee correctness. How do you verify that the code released is actually the code in use on the day? How do you verify the compiler, linker, system libraries, etc on the machine haven't been compromised? What about the BIOS or the microcode on the CPU? See also Ken Thompson's Reflections on Trusting Trust:

    - Voter confidence: with pencils, a voter can follow the count process and independently verify the counting. Political parties can and do have overseers who follow the count and check tallies. All of this is impossible with electronic voting.

  42. Edward Miles

    @AC 11:28

    1. In the event that a machine breaks (And printing incorrect slips counts as breaking!), this is reported to the officials *without* revealing your vote, and you are given a paper ballot. All ballots at this polling station are then manually counted. As everyone has voted by paper as well as electronically, all votes are still counted. Yes you could force a manual count, but the result would be the same.

    2. So what if you do? If that ballot box isn't checked, your vote will be counted. If it is checked, a manual count will be performed, and you will have lost your vote. The only effect, apart from causing mass-recounting is to hinder your own agenda.

    3. Tampering is irrelevant. If any large scale tampering is performed, it will be caught by the random sweeps, and the election would be reverted to a paper count. (This is not to say stringent methods shouldn't be put in place to protect them, there are several possible methods which would achieve this, but tampering would not affect the outcome.)

    4. See above.

    5. You can still follow the 10% ballot checking. If the random sample tallies up 100% with the electronic result, then the likelihood of tampering is low. Add in a rule that any party can force a full manual count if they are willing to pay for it (with a full refund being offered if any discrepancy is found) and the loss of accounting is low to none.

    None of your examples above have a decent chance of affecting the outcome of an election, apart from removing your ballot paper. Apart from the fact the only person hindered there is yourself, you can already do this in the manual system today, throwing the result into doubt because the vote count is off.

    Yes an organised campaign can cast doubt on the veracity of the software, but under the current paper and pen system an organised campaign can cast doubt on the result of an election! The only difference is the speed you find out the campaign has occurred.

  43. Pete

    @ AC (19:02 GMT)

    Give over man. The author made his humorous comment in relation to Ahern's original statement. Now we know how wars are started. ;-)

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    More on TDs expenses. Nearly as good as whacky-Jacqui's expense claim for grumble flicks.

    I'm inclined to agree with Edward Miles, secure E-voting is NOT hard to set-up. Voter enters booth and presses a few buttons, an vote card is printed with the vote and a bar code representing the vote and deposited in ballot box. The bar code be machine read for counting. Spot checking the bar codes Vs what the vote printed on the card is can be used to verify that the vote has not been tampered with.

    any comments on that AC 11:28?

    One criticism I have for voting machines is that they do not have a "none of the above" option.

    How long will these comments remain online El Reg? I want to use them as prior art when I sue Diebolds.

    I just waiting for Brain(less) Lenihan to announce that he has cleared Ireland's budgetary shortfall by selling the voting machines to Zimbabwe for 8 Billion dollars.

  45. MGJ

    Paper and Pencil Secure

    What planet are you guys from if you think pencil and paper is secure? Try doing some research on the Glenrothes by-election and see if you still think that there is no way that ballots could be rigged and there is no way to do an audit or recount.

    The real beneficiaries of pencil and paper are large political parties since p&p makes STV and other alternative voting systems more difficult to manage and count. As long as people keep telling opinion polls that voting on a Thursday at the local polling place is inconvenient and that they'd be more likely to vote if they could do it by txt, email or interactive Sky channel, then we'll see moves to eVoting. Large turnouts, however created, give governments legitimacy.

  46. Stevie


    Wow. Someone figured out that IT investment never makes money. We've only known that since, like, the 1960s, and in these days of complete turnover in five years the situation has only got worse.

    The only reason to electronify your voting is if you want to do something other than cast votes and count them afterward. After all, elections are not held the night before the post becomes vacant.

    Exactly what sorts of things someone might want to do with votes in a silent, unsupervised, high-speed environment is left as an exercise for the reader.

  47. Chris

    Pencils don't crash

    Here in oklahoma, we've stayed on the optical voting system and never have issues like hanging chads, un-auditable trails, crashing or unreliable e-voting, etc. It's about as simple and clear as you can get. You draw a line to connect the box for yes or no, who you want to vote for, etc. It's tallied electroniclly and has been for 20 years....with a very high reliability rate. Many states are tossing their e-voting systems here in favor of systems like ours. I'm in IT, and I will tell you that I would never choose a e-voting machine. They have proven that they can't do the job. People want technology, but it's one that just isn't ready yet. There are far too many variables that not a single manufacturer has been able to conquer. Stick with the "pencil" folks, you'll be better off (and cheaper)...and you'll never have to worry about seeing a blue screen of death as you vote. :)

  48. Anonymous Coward

    @Edward Miles 12:20


    I'm the same Anonymous Coward from 11:28 above.

    I find it bemusing that successive countries have rejected the idea of eVoting, that international organisations of computer experts have condemned the concept, and yet you think it's still totally workable. All of your proposed solutions have been discussed ad infinitum elsewhere (see the ICTE archives for a start) and shown to be infeasible. To quickly recap:

    Point 1: (machine breaks, you switch to voting by paper). What happens if it breaks at the end of the day? If I'm one of the last to vote, I have to vote by pencil. It's now much easier to match ballots with voters, especially in small towns where the electoral register is quite small, i.e. you know the pencil ballots belong to the voters who voted at the end of the day.

    Point 2: (sneaking paper receipts home with you is of no consequence). Re-read my point. It allows voter coercion ("Vote Party A or your welfare cheques stop! Show me the paper ballot as proof") and vote selling ("I'll vote Party A for 1 euro! I'll show you my paper ballot as evidence"). In both cases, the coercer / buyer is relying on the ballot box not being checked against the electronic record (which would invalidate their coercion / purchase) but if you're only checking a given percentage, that might be an acceptable risk. Either way, removing potential evidence of how you voted is not something that can be allowed.

    Point 3: (random sweeps catch discrepancies) What about too-close-to-call elections? Changing only 1% of the votes (either accidentally or deliberately) might affect the outcome, without being caught by a random sweep. What about systems such as PRSTV, where fractional preferences are transferred? In those cases, you'd need to check all the ballot boxes to rule out tampering, not just a fraction.

    Point 4: See above :)

    Point 5: Once you start setting percentage thresholds for what's acceptable, it's a slippery slope. Is checking 10% of ballot boxes enough? 20%? And asking parties to pay for the cost of a recount means independent candidates, without large party chequebooks, are at a disadvantage.

    Basically, the paper trail has to be checked in full, every election. It has to take priority in the event of a dispute, every election. Which then means your €50 million worth of eVoting machines are little more than electronic exit polls - useful for early indications, but nothing more. But current exit polls work fine :-)

  49. Anonymous Coward

    @Ponder Stebbins, 12:59

    You're now talking about electronic counting, as opposed to electronic voting. It's an improvement, granted, but still has problems.

    The voter has no way of verifying that the barcode matches the human-readable version of the vote. Spot checks rely on the barcode reading device being trusted. If the barcode printer / barcode reader only malfunctions once every 100 or once every 1000 votes, that might be enough to tip a tight election while still avoiding detection.

    What if the barcodes match the human readable votes perfectly, but the counting algorithm is flawed? Remember the counting software was discovered to have flaws when the Irish machines were examined.

  50. Stan

    @Andrew Moore

    Sir, I protest, I most strongly object to your implication that I am an American ;) Co. Wicklow bog trotter through and through. Maybe my post (or rant) wasn't clear, I was talking about the re-vote on the Nice treaty, there where 2 different issues being voted for with the same vote. Cant remember what the second issue was but it more or less gave no other option but to vote yes, and in doing so also vote yes to the Nice treaty.

    Wont be surprised if the same thing happens with the Lisbon treaty which is coming up for a re-vote in October, which we where promised was never going to happen. Well Sarkozy can just bugger off back to France and take his advice with him, he knows damn well that if he tried the same kind of crap in France as we get bent over and shafted with in Ireland he would be strung up. Why the hell do we stand for it?

    Anyway, good points from both yourself and Ponder Stebbins on the state of Irish politics.

  51. A J Stiles

    Universal Comprehensibility

    Pencil and paper has one advantage that no electronic or mechanical system can claim: it's universally comprehensible.

    90% of the population can't program a VCR, let alone a computer. The Source Code for the voting machines isn't a lot of use to them. They just have to take someone else's word for it. Furthermore, even if you did go to the trouble of downloading the code from the Election Bureau's website and checking it line by line, how do you know that that's what the machines are actually running?

    The problem with electronic voting systems -- and it is a limitation of the universe rather than a limitation of current technology, so nothing can be invented that would mitigate it -- is that what is actually counted is only a copy of what the voter did, and thus it can be changed without the voter's knowledge. Any "layer of security" you can bolt on top of that won't make any difference, because ultimately it's just a diversion which solves the wrong problem (and occasionally creates new ones; for instance, receipts still don't prove anything and can be used for nefarious purposes).

    Just because you know how *your* vote was recorded, that doesn't tell you J.S. You still don't know how *everyone else* voted. The Authorities can publish absolutely bogus results and as long as they can tell *you* correctly, at some later date, how you voted, then you have to be happy with that.

    Manual counting involving representatives of all candidates exploits the pre-existing adversarial relationship between them: nobody trusts anybody else, so the only way not to get called out is to tell the truth.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    who calculates the costs?

    If the system had been specified as vote printer or DRE with VVPAT right from the beginning the extra costs would be probably zero. Now the costs for the modification will be approx € 500,- per machine,and 7500 times 500 is less the 4 million € , easily offset against the benefits. So where is the € 21 coming from?

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