Electronic voting with a paper trail?

Posted by Eoin O’Malley

If electronic voting was rejected because of the absence of a paper trail, perhaps this voting system could solve that problem. It would mean an end to the tallymen, and for that reason alone doesn’t get my vote.


18 thoughts on “Electronic voting with a paper trail?

  1. I understand the importance of lots people being involved in the counting of votes, but can we please put aside this elitist insular sentimental fetishism the of ‘the tallymen’

    • Sorry, but it’s not ‘elitist insular sentimental fetishism’. Tallying makes the whole process open and accountable. It also gives a great deal more information about voting patterns than otherwise would be available. And it makes the election experience more exciting, which may have an impact on turnout.

  2. yeah but is that information available?, or kept to the parties and few political nerds i don’t its wholly available therefore it is elitist.

  3. Sounds like an amazing idea to me! Wouldn’t everybody being able to check their votes individually make the system much more open than having tallymen? And couldn’t it generate much better data: instant and in digital format?

    • Yes, I suppose there’s no reason why box information couldn’t be made available, except that it would be open to court challenge. In the right hands (Simon Cowell), the release of each count to be made into a televisual spectacular!

      • Yeah – could be amazing (for those interested in such things, at least) to watch unfold.

        An interesting issue would be whether the data would be made available in real time, or whether it would all be relased in a clump after polling finished. On the one hand real time would really improve the transparency, making it incredibly difficult to rig the election, on the other hand, it could influence the results – if supporters followed the count and turned out accordingly.

  4. Sometimes tally figures are made available to the general public by means of being published in the local newspapers after an election, but it depends on what constituency you are from. Traditionally the constituencies in the West and North Midlands tend to be quite good in this regard – newspapers like The Westmeath Indepdendent and The Connacht Tribune regularly post election tallies in the editions published in the week following an election.

    BTW, the political nerds do not have any magic access to tally figures!!! Trust me on this…

  5. so agree they are not widely available and therefore it is elitist. tallymen and there figures, one of those blackarts.

  6. The Bismark design is clever, attractive and viable but let’s not debate new voting technology for Ireland until there is an ambition to achieve something moderately substantial.

    The move to introduce electronic voting here was based on the argument that the change was somehow appropriate to the IT age. The Taoiseach said that if we didn’t do this, the world would ridicule our pencils! The experiment wasn’t successful for reasons that were essentially technical and so the myth that this was a good and progressive initiative endures.

    There is a tendency to pretend that the initiative -because it used computer technology – was a leap forward. It was nothing of the sort. Had it been a resounding success, very little would have changed. It is important to bear in mind that these computers were no more than electronic voting machines. Voters still went to polling stations, voted within a short timeframe and could not fiil in their ballot papers as drafts before making their final decision. Complete success would have meant little more than ruining a good night’s television!

    Occasionally the term “e-voting” was misapplied to give a false impression. E-voting – properly understood – does mean change. Should it be introduced successfully, citizens will not be required to go to polling stations, they will vote on-line and have a period of days during which they can alter their “paper”. Unlike our old-fashioned, electronic voting machines there would be an outcome worth debating. Let’s forget electronics until we are thinking about up to date technology.

  7. @Eoin O’Malley
    “…an end to the tallymen, and for that reason alone doesn’t get my vote.”

    I assume that you are not being serious, by using this as a criteria on the merits of otherwise of the process of voting:-)

    @Colum McCaffery
    While I find your argument plausible, I wonder is it a case of the best (voting without having to go to polling booths eg. from hand-held ICT devices) being the enemy of the good?
    In any change to the process of voting, this possibility should be explicitly designed into whatever system is developed.

    • Yes, the same thought occurred to me – there is some benefit in the human community interaction that comes from visiting the actual polling station – would totally virtualising our vote not cheapen the process somewhat? The system that the TED talk presents seems to keep the vote process – but just improve speed, reliability, and transparency.

      • Donal and Matthew, I’m not at all convinced that on-line voting would generally speaking be a good thing. What I’m saying is that if we were considering on-line voting, there would be something worth debating. Mere electronic voting machines for Ireland would be the application of expensive – to purchase and to run – outdated technology to no purpose. A triumph of technology over common sense!

  8. First comment should read
    I assume that you are not being serious, by using this as a criteria on the merits or otherwise of changing the process of voting:-)

    • Not completely serious, but I do think that an important aspect of the voting process is the open and social way in which votes are cast. By slowing the process down, it also makes the counting process an important aspect of the election itself, and probably has an educative role.

  9. On tallying – this has broken down in many count centres, with incomplete tallies in Dublin and parties sharing tasks and thereby defeating the whole idea of multiple interests overseeing the process.

    On the receipt idea – it is deeply flawed. If there is a receipt which leaves the polling station the individual is immediately open to intimidation. Being able to prove how you voted gives the opportunity to sell votes but more importantly gives a person applying pressure the opportunity to demand proof.

    Paper verification has one and only one use – a second casting of the vote to serve as a back-up to the primary electronic counting. This to be done by depositing same into a box – preferably automatically following an optical scanning of the vote.

    • The receipt proposed in this system does not show who you voted for, so it can’t be used as proof to a third-party.
      The trade of is that while you can now see your vote, you have to trust the computer program, or the election tsar, that it is interpreted the way you want. It doesn’t improve trust just moves it along.

      • Missed this before.

        The receipt can be checked online in the manner he outlines, therefore pressure can still be exerted.

        The only means of ensuring full trust is to have a receipt printed by the machine which is then deposited and in a position to be counted should a query be raised.

        I think this was the original proposal of the campaign back in 2003(?)

  10. I would also say that slow counts cannot be shown to have in any way deepened public engagement with our elections. The number of psephology nerds here is certainly higher than average, but turnout certainly isn’t.

    It’s moot for the next 10 years or so due to cost and experience – but it is a disgrace that we elect of main chamber through a process which employs chance and encourages human error (mainly on the part of the voter). We need a computerised system so that we can get rid of the ‘shuffle and fix the order’ rule and completely get rid of spoiled votes.

    The last attempt worked well in Meath and Dublin (accepted by the public and few teething problems) and the failure to have an open-source approach to the design and development was what brought it down. A huge wasted opportunity.

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