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Serious Inconsistencies Uncovered in E-Voting Pilot Votes (NEDAP Powervote) PDF  | Print |  Email
By Colm MacCarthaigh, Irish Citizens for Trustworthy Evoting   
July 14, 2005
Link to 04-04 Press Release

Documentation released under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act [1], [2], [3], [4] reveals that there were serious inconsistencies with the counts in two of the constituencies in which evoting was piloted in 2002. This information is contained in the Dublin County returning officer's reports on the use of evoting for 2002 Dáil election and Nice II referendum obtained by Mr Joe McCarthy under FoI.

Contrary to claims by Minister for The Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr Martin Cullen T.D. [5], [6], significant anomalies were discovered in the election results employing the Nedap/Powervote system at the time of the 2002 election and referendum. "Specific claims of `the earlier successful use of the system in Ireland in three constituencies at the 2002 general election' [7] are misleading, misinformed and mistaken" commented Mr Dermot Casey of the Irish Citizens for Trustworthy Evoting (ICTE).

In the case of the Dáil Election in the Dublin West Constituency, these reports indicate the Presiding Officer recorded 29,272 votes as having been cast. The Nedap/Powervote modules recorded 29,988 votes as having being cast, a difference of 716 votes. These 716 unexplained votes represent 2.4% of those who voted in the constituency of Dublin West.

A further flaw emerged in the results of the Dublin North Election in which Ms Nora Owen lost her seat. In Dublin North the documents indicate that the Presiding Officers recorded 45,236 votes as having been cast in that constituency. The Nedap/Powervote ballot modules recorded only 43,942 votes. "This difference of 1,294 votes represents 2.9% of total poll and is extremely worrying" noted Mr Dermot Casey of ICTE.

Due to the procedures put in place by the presiding officers, it is impossible to tell if the discrepancies are the result of human error, machine error or even tampering. However with a Voter Verified Audit Trail (VVAT), as proposed by over half of the 162 recent submissions to the Commission on Electronic Voting, it would have been trivial to determine. As Colm MacCárthaigh of ICTE commented "There is simply no record of how many people actually turned up to vote, so we don't know if votes went missing or appeared out of nowhere." Mr Dermot Casey of ICTE noted that "without a voter verified paper audit trail the security, accuracy and integrity of the electoral process will be undermined."

In promoting the proposed evoting system Minister Cullen pointed out "There is no doubt that some seats can be decided by error. In the last local elections 21,000 votes were declared spoiled, while at the same time 40 seats were decided by less than 50 votes." [8] We now have a situation where there are questions surrounding 2000 votes in just two constituencies, a problem potentially four times worse than spoiled votes if repeated across all 43 constituencies. Discrepancies of this magnitude are rare in most elections. A group monitoring the Nice II Referendum pointed out at the time that "There is also no correlation in the polling station between the number of votes cast and the number of votes counted, even though this is an elementary procedure in most if not all polling stations in the former Communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe. Across the whole of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, indeed, it is extremely rare, in BHHRG's very wide experience of such polls, for the two figures not to tally at the polling station level" [9]

Mr Colm MacCárthaigh of ICTE further noted "this degree of error would be unheard-of with the existing paper system, where discrepancies can be easily seen and corrected in plain view of candidates and their agents. The numbers of votes in doubt here amount to five or ten times the usual number of spoiled paper ballots." A key flaw with the The Nedap/Powervote system is that it removed the physical ballot paper that created the ability to independently audit election results in an open, transparent and reliable manner.

"These problems could be easily resolved with a Voter Verified Audit Trail - the paper ballots represent the true count. They are a physical, tangible record. They are verified by the voters themselves. Without this record, errors such as these destroy the credibility and trustworthiness of the electoral system - if they are even discovered." noted Mr Mark Dunne of ICTE.

ICTE website

[References]

[1] J Fitzpatrick report on Nice pilot (pdf format) (rtf format)

[2] J Fitzpatrick report on June 2002 pilot (pdf format) (rtf format)

[3] Vote reconciliation problems Dublin North (pdf format) (rtf format)

[4] Vote reconciliation problems Dublin West (pdf format) (rtf format)

[5] Statement By Minister Martin Cullen TD On Electronic Voting
2nd March, 2004.


[6] Government confirms nationwide Electronic Voting in June
25th February 2004


[7] Dail Debate on Electronic Voting, February 17th 2004
Transcript


[8] Dail Debate on Electronic Voting, February 18th 2004
Transcript


[9] Ireland Votes Again Report by the BRITISH HELSINKI HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP
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