Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (23, 24, 25, 26)

Bernard Allen

Question:

17 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of his Department’s electronic voting programme; the total spent to date; if plans to hold an election by electronic voting are in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27537/04]

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Joe Costello

Question:

41 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the proposed timetable for the introduction of electronic voting; if the Government still plans to introduce electronic voting before the next general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27321/04]

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Pat Breen

Question:

48 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost of storing the electronic voting machines purchased; if maintenance is required to keep them in working order; and the cost of same. [27534/04]

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Bernard Allen

Question:

82 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the recently purchased machines (details supplied) are suitable to be used in the context of an election here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27538/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 41, 48 and 82 together.

In parallel with the continuation of the work of the Commission on Electronic Voting, my Department is developing a programme of further assessment, testing and validation which is intended to address the concerns raised in the commission's interim report published last April on the secrecy and accuracy of the electronic voting and counting system. The objective of this programme is to demonstrate both to the commission and to the public that the Nedap-Powervote electronic voting system, which was selected following detailed assessment of the requirements to be met in Irish electoral conditions and the holding of an open international tender competition, is suitable to be used at Irish elections. The timing of the further use of the system is dependent on the progress made with this programme of work and the dates on which future polls may be held.

The cost to date of the electronic voting and counting project is some €51 million. Regarding storage of the voting equipment, returns received in my Department from 25 of the 28 Dáil returning officers indicate that annual storage costs, including rental, insurance and other costs, in respect of the electronic voting equipment amount to €546,000. In some cases, however, this includes dedicated election office space in addition to equipment storage.

While the voting machines do not require regular maintenance between polls, the equipment contract negotiated with Nedap-Powervote provides for free servicing and repair where necessary of all voting equipment until the end of 2007.