Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ireland Scraps Electronic Voting Machines for Good.

IRELAND’S useless e-voting machines have finally been flogged off — at a THOUSAND per cent loss to tax-payers.

A scrap firm yesterday forked out €70,000 for the job lot, ending an eight-year fiasco that began when Bertie Ahern ridiculed the use of “our stupid ol’ pencils”.
His Government paid €51million for almost 7,500 of the hi-tech machines for local and European elections in 2004.
Then Environment Minister Martin Cullen boasted they were the way to vote in the 21st century.
But after being found to be unusable, they have since been gathering dust — at an extra cost of €4million in warehouse fees.
Last night, Cullen’s Fine Gael successor hold how he was “glad to bring this sorry episode to a conclusion”.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan said: “From the outset, this project was ill-conceived by my predecessors and, as a result, it has cost the taxpayer €55million.
“While this is a scandalous waste of public money, I am happy to say that we will not incur any further costs in the disposal of the machines.”
Earlier he signed a €70,267 contract with Co Offaly based KMK Metals Recycling to scrap the lot.
The Tullamore firm is expected to beginning removing the White Elephants from 14 storage sites around the country in the coming weeks.
About 60 per cent of the machines are under wraps at Gormanston Army Camp in Co Meath.
When they were offered for tender earlier this year, it was feared that the State might have to PAY someone to get rid of them, Finance Minister Michael Noonan once quipped that they could make novelty fittings in a boozer.
His cabinet colleague Hogan yesterday said that none of the eight bidders for the machines wanted to reuse them for elections overseas.


At the 2002 general electionelectronic voting machines were used in 3 constituencies (Dublin NorthDublin West and Meath) on a trial basis, with the intention that it would be extended to the whole country for future elections.[1] They were also used in the same constituencies for the 2002 referendum on the Treaty of Nice. A confidential report in 2002 expressed serious concern over the security of the voting machines. According to the report, the integrity of the ballot could not be guaranteed with the equipment and controls used. The Department of the Environment disagreed with many of these findings, saying the machines were secure and that the presence of voting officials prevents tampering. Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said electronic voting should be abandoned, and he claimed, a lack of transparency and the new system could be open to "radical manipulation."[2]

[edit]Proposed implementation

Following the 2002 trial of the machines, in 2004 the government undertook plans to introduce a nationwide electronic voting system for the local and European Parliamentelections. The proposed change was under the supervision of then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Martin Cullen.
In March 2004 the Government of Ireland established the Independent Commission on Electronic Voting and Counting at Elections to examine the proposed system.[3] It was dissolved in 2006. The Commission issued a series of reports reviewing the proposed system and comparing it to the existing electoral system:[4]
"The Commission can recommend the voting and counting equipment as follows:
  • The voting machine and related hardware components are of good quality and their design, which is based on voting systems that have been reliable in use elsewhere for some years, has also remained stable since their adaptation for use in Ireland. Subject to some minor security and usability enhancements, followed by extended and rigorous testing once they have been so modified, the voting machine and related components can be confidently recommended for use.
  • The embedded software of the voting machine is also of adequate quality, requiring only minor modifications followed by further analysis to confirm its reliability."

[edit]Scrapping of project

The prime issue was the lack of verifiability by the absence of an audit mechanism or verified paper trail. The former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had defended the flawed system in the Dáil, bemoaning the use of "stupid old pencils".[5]
The voting machines bought by the government from Dutch firm Nedap are in storage as the cabinet ponders what to do after the Commission on Electronic Voting said it could not recommend the system. Approximately €0.5m was spent improving the software. Ahern has defended the system despite public scepticism and opposition from within his own party[6] on the basis that having spent the money, it would cause loss of national pride if the system were scrapped.
In October 2006, a group of Dutch hackers, including Rop Gonggrijp, showed how similar machines to the ones purchased in Ireland could be modified by replacing the E-proms with Nedap -Firmware with E-proms with their own firmware.[7]
On 23 April 2009, Minister for the Environment John Gormley announced that the electronic voting system was to be scrapped by an as of yet undetermined method, due to cost and the public's dissatisfaction with the current system.[8]
Department of the Environment website demonstrating how to use electronic voting machines is still in operation in April 2012 despite the project being abandoned in 2009.[9]
On 6 October 2010, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that the 7,000 machines would not be used for voting and would be disposed of.[10] As of October 2010, the total cost of the electronic voting project has reached €54.6 million, including €3 million spent on storing the machines over the previous five years.[10]

KMK Metals Recycling paid €70,267 for 7,500 e-voting machines; 1,232 transport/storage trolleys; 2,142 hand trolleys and 4,787 metal tilt tables. [11]


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