That, having regard to the findings of the Commission on Electronic Voting on the secrecy, accuracy and testing of the chosen electronic voting system, the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004 be recommitted in its entirety.
The Bill is before the House because the Government has been in a mad rush to get the electronic voting system in place for 11 June. The Committee Stage debate, which took place last week, took place prior to the interim report of the Commission on Electronic Voting. That report changes the context for the Bill. First, electronic voting will not be used on 11 June. Second, there are issues which arise from the report of the commission which require the Bill to be amended on Committee Stage.
On pages 12 and 13 of the commission's report, there are comments by the commission on its terms of reference. The terms of reference for the commission, when established on a statutory basis, are contained in a Schedule to the Bill. The implications of the comments by the commission in its report relating to its terms of reference would require amendments to be tabled to the Bill. For example, the commission states: "Issues such as the existence of a voter verifiable audit trail, the removal of the possibility of abstaining or spoiling a vote, voter acceptance of the system, alternative electronic voting systems and issues surrounding the procurement of the chosen system and the procurement of previous testing of the system were outside the Commission's terms of reference". It appears, given the comments made by the commission, that the terms of reference for the commission, which are contained in a Schedule to the Bill, need to be amended, thus requiring a recommittal.
Other issues have been raised by the commission which require a Committee Stage type debate. For example, the finding by the commission that "the system has not been tested as a whole or certified as being suitable for use in an Irish electoral context by an accredited testing and certification authority" would require a Committee Stage amendment, as would the finding that: "certain of the tests performed at the request of the Commission identified an error in the count software which could lead to incorrect distributions of surpluses; there is a possibility that further testing will uncover further software errors;". The finding, which is alarming, that:
. . . there is a possibility of interference with the voting machine, ballot module and hardened PC:
—in particular, experts retained by the Commission found it very easy to bypass electronic security measures and gain complete control of the "hardened" PC, overwrite the software, and thereby in theory to gain complete control over the count in a given constituency——