Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Ceisteanna (815, 816, 817, 818, 819, 820, 821, 822)

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

933 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a back-up system will be available at each polling place, such as printed ballot papers, so that voters will have an alternative method of casting their votes in the event that technical difficulties arise and the electronic voting system is unavailable. [1321/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

In the event of a malfunction of a voting machine at a polling station, back-up arrangements will be in place for voters to vote on another voting machine in polling stations with more than one machine or for the provision of a replacement machine.

It is not intended, other than for postal and special voters, to complement the electronic voting system with a system based on printed ballot papers.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

934 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when his Department expects to receive a fully functioning version of the electronic voting and counting software from the vendor; and when he anticipates that the software will undergo an end to end test. [1322/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

935 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when his Department expects to receive the source code for the electronic voting and counting software from the vendor. [1323/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

936 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the latest date for receipt of a properly functioning and properly tested system for electronic voting and counting, given that development of the software is not yet complete; and if he has a contingency plan for the conduct of the elections in the event that the software developers are unable to resolve the outstanding problems in time for the system to be tested thoroughly. [1324/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

937 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the vendors of the electronic voting and counting software expect to be in a position to supply a working version of the machine which is capable of dealing with multiple elections. [1325/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I propose to take Questions Nos. 934 to 937, inclusive, together.

The voting machines are currently being delivered to returning officers and I expect all voting machines to be received by the end of March. Each of the machines is capable of dealing with multiple elections. My Department will be arranging final testing of the software this week by third parties, who will have access to the source code, as well as by the Department. The question of licensing or purchasing the source code is under consideration.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

938 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the background checks which have been conducted on the beneficial owners and staff of the companies providing the electronic voting equipment and counting software; and also if there are procedures for any new staff or new owners of the companies to be checked. [1345/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Ring

Ceist:

940 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the name of the company that has received the contract for the electronic voting; the safety precautions which have been put in place; the person who is going to set up the programme for the equipment and who will be witnessing the actual programme; and the safety checks that are put in place in relation to the electronic voting. [1353/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Dan Neville

Ceist:

983 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the details of the company contracted to introduce electronic voting; and the identity of the company which will operate the system at local election time in June 2004. [1807/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I propose to take Questions Nos. 938, 940 and 983 together.

Following an open tender competition which fully complied with EU's public procurement procedures, my Department in June 2001, appointed the consortium, Nedap BV, Bureau Groenendaal BV and Powervote, to provide the voting machines and supporting software for the holding of elections in this country. The consortium has extensive experience in providing equipment for elections in two other EU member states and in the development and maintenance of election software. The equipment and software for the voting machines has been tested by two international institutes for compliance with internationally accepted standards.

As regards the conduct of elections in this country, returning officers appointed under the various electoral legislative codes are responsible for conducting elections. Advice and support, as required, will be made available by my Department to ensure a smooth transition to the new system. However, at all times, the returning officer is the person statutorily responsible for conducting the election. Detailed security protocols and procedures will be in place to ensure that access to the voting machines and stand-alone dedicated election computers is restricted and controlled by the returning officer responsible for the election or to authorised staff under the supervision of the returning officer.

Candidates and their agents can, of course, monitor the various stages of the election.