SHOULD ELECTRONIC VOTING BE RE-INTRODUCED IN IRELAND?

Recounts continue for the fourth day in Dublin Bay North, Dublin South Central and Longford Westmeath this morning to fill the final seats of the 2016 election.

For over 72 hours, humans have been sifting through ballot papers and gulping caffeine, re-evaluating counts due to possible human errors.

In a time where everything is digital, is it time to digitalise our voting process?

Seán Haughey, newly-elected Fianna Fáil TD, said: “The current system for all its flaws is very open and transparent. Some years ago we tried electronic voting but the public had no confidence in it.”

“I would be very slow to revisit the matter. For my own part, I did not mind waiting for the final result,” said Haughey.

Catherine Ardagh, FF, said that she’d be comfortable with an e-voting system. Ardagh called for a recount in Dublin South Central, as there were only 35 votes between herself and Brid Smith (AAA-PBP) for the last seat in the constituency.

Pat Wallace, Limerick returning officer, said that electronic machines would be a “nail in the coffin for Irish politics and the media.”

“The count is a social event in the calendar of politics. Many come to the count for the social engagement. That would be diminished with the use of electronic voting,” said Wallace.

Eoin O’Malley, Law and Government lecturer at DCU said that he doesn’t see a need for electronic voting. “Recounts are good for democracy. They show voters their votes in action and the impact their preferences can have on transferable votes.”

“Electronic counting may eliminate human errors. However there are problems with electronic counting that would be more severe such as its security,” said O’Malley.

It’s been fourteen years since the e-voting machines were first introduced in Ireland.

In 2002, the Government purchased electronic voting machines at the cost of €51 million but were only ever used in three constituencies at the 2002 general election – Dublin North, Dublin West and Meath – and the second referendum on the Nice Treaty later that year.

noel-dempsey-voting

The machines were scrapped by the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Martin Cullen, because of inaccuracy and the cost of storage, which was estimated at €4 million since their inception.

The former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had defended the flawed system in the Dáil, bemoaning the use of “stupid old pencils”.

The Government sold the machines in 2012 to Tullamore-based KMK Metals Recycling Limited see for just over €70,000. The machines, which were sold for over €9 each, were scrapped and used for parts.

Countries such as Switzerland and Estonia have an e-voting system for many years. Canada once employed e-voting but scrapped it sue to its high costs, similar to Ireland.

By Catherine Devine

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