Great spats over the electronic voting system about to be introduced in Ireland shortly. As far as I understand it, people are worried for two reasons. The new system no longer allows us to ‘spoil’ votes privately. We have a tradition of protest abstentions here, where you can write, for example, “No to warplanes refuelling at Shannon” on your ballot. You can also, if so inclined, indicate who you would have voted for before you got pissed off. Now, in order to abstain actively, you must notify a polling officer, who will switch off the machine and restart.
The other concern is that this system has no audit trail. No paper backup votes are printed for counting and it will be difficult to figure out if and when something goes wrong.
The proponents do not inspire confidence. On RTE’s Playback this morning, I listened in disbelief as the Taoiseach’s brother defended the new system. There would be no problems because these were not computers, he insisted. They were just machines. The baffled interviewer pressed him on this, to be told angrily that of course they weren’t computers, because they weren’t connected to the internet.
Well, that’s all right, then.