Ireland cancels e-voting

By EDRi · May 5, 2004

Ireland has cancelled the use of electronic voting machines for the upcoming European elections in June after an independent commission said the secrecy and accuracy of the voting could not be guaranteed. The Irish government has spent 40 million euros on voting machines from the Dutch manufacturer Nedap. The Irish opposition demands the resignation of the responsible minister for the Environment and Local Government, Martin Cullen.

There has been a fierce public debate in Ireland about the introduction of e-voting after technical experts raised concerns on the reliability of the voting machines and its software. In 2002 the Irish security firm Zerflow reviewed the Nedap machines and concluded that manipulation of the voting process was possible. Experts and civil society groups have since then pushed for an independent review of the source code and the implementation of a paper trail (Voter Verified Audit Trail). The paper trail should make it possible for voters to see the result of their voting on paper as they can’t see what happens inside voting machines. The machine might display one vote to the voter and record something else internally. The paper ballot can also be used for a manual re-count if desired. The Nedap machines do not provide such a paper trail.

In March 2004 the Irish government set up the Independent Commission on Electronic Voting to review the secrecy and accuracy of the Nedap system. In its report the commission concludes “that it is not in a position to recommend with the requisite degree of confidence the use of the chosen system at elections in Ireland in June 2004”. “(..) the Commission has not been able to satisfy itself as to the accuracy and secrecy of the system (..)”.

One of the problems is that the software used, is not available for a full review: “The Commission did not obtain access to the full source code and there is not sufficient time before the June elections to allow a full code review of the final version of the software that would be necessary before it could be used in these elections”.

The Nedap machines are being used in the Netherlands by approximately 80% of the voters. The source code is not publicly available in The Netherlands nor obtained by the Dutch government. The machines are tested but the test reports are confidential.

The Irish debate has prompted Dutch members of parliament to ask questions about the reliability of the Nedap machines used in the Netherlands. The responsible minister De Graaf answered that he sees no problem with the system, because it meets the requirements specified in a 1997 law. As the time of answering the Irish decision to cancel its e-voting plan was not yet known.

Interim report of the Commission on Electronic Voting (01.05.2004)