April 27, 2009

Ireland abandons electronic voting

Posted in Elections, Irish elections, paper ballots, voting, voting machines tagged , , , , at 5:28 pm by bluebanshee

According to a recent report in the Irish Times, the Irish Republic has decided to dump its 7,500 paperless  electronic voting machines and retain paper ballots.  There had been a proposal to add a Voter Verified Audit Trail (VVAT) to the paperless NEDAP machines but  Irish Minister of the Environment John Gormley  decided against that path, citing costs. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0423/breaking37.htm

“It is clear from consideration of the Report of the Commission on Electronic Voting that significant additional costs would arise to advance electronic voting in Ireland. This decision has been taken to avoid such costs, especially at a time of more challenging economic conditions.”

But Gormley stated that he felt that the decision was also justified by other considerations:

“The public appeared to be broadly satisfied with the present paper-based system and that this had to be recognised.

“The assurance of public confidence in the democratic system is of paramount importance and it is vital to bring clarity to the present situation.”

Before hardcore hand-counted-paper-ballots advocates jump in to push for their solution to be adopted everywhere in the U.S. because of the Irish precedent, it is important to note that Ireland is a parliamentary system with rather simple ballots.   Take a look at the image below:  it’s not nearly as complex as a U.S. ballot (I really like the party symbols next to each candidates — makes party-line voting much easier).

An e-voting machine

A ballot in the U.S. would be much more complicated with a plethora of local, county, special district, school district, regional district, and state contests in addition to Federal races, plus various initiatives and referendums.   Not as susceptible to hand counting as Ireland’s much more straightforward ballot.

Neverthless, kudos to Ireland for choosing transparency and voter confidence over technology.


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