I propose to take Questions Nos. 956 to 958, inclusive, together.
The projected lifespan of the electronic voting machines is 20 years and there will be little or no ongoing replacement or annual maintenance costs. The warranty on the voting machines expires at the end of 2007 and after this time a service agreement will be entered into with the suppliers. As regards the integrated election system, IES, the Department will continue with software testing up to the June polls. There will be no additional cost for software updates within this period. The question of software licensing and ongoing software support thereafter will be considered following the 2004 polls. Further significant changes in the software for future elections or referendums should not arise, other than those that may be required by changes in electoral legislation.
Definitive cost comparisons of a national poll carried out under the manual system and the electronic system will not be available until after the first countrywide use of the new system in June of this year, however, significant savings in staff costs at counting stage are anticipated. Training of returning officers and election staff is ongoing and firm costs will not be available until later this year. Training requirements in the future will be determined by the frequency of polls and the availability of trained staff for such polls.