Tuesday 19 March 2019

E-voting machines will be obsolete in storage

Anne-Marie Walsh

RETURNING officers took out leases of up to 25 years to store controversial e-voting machines, even though they only have a lifespan of 20 years.

It has been revealed that further bungles in the administration of the computers, which have never been used, are putting extra financial burdens on the taxpayer.

The Government has been deliberating on the fate of the machines, made obsolete since glitches were found in their security system.

An estimated €51.3m has already been spent on the ballot system although serious doubts have been raised over whether it will ever be used.

And the Government is also paying in the region of €2.6m a year just to keep the electronic balloting system in storage.

Annual storage costs were €528,000 this year, while last year the cost amounted to €706,000, €696,000 in 2005 and €658,000 in 2004.

Further expense is expected as the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government has decided to bear the cost of buying up the leases while it moves the machines to a central storage area at the Gormanston Aerodrome, Co Meath.

A department spokesperson said the move to the new centralised storage arrangement had already cost €326,000, and further costs would be borne to complete the move.

He said 60pc of the computers were already located at the Gormanston camp, which has the capacity to accommodate 4,700 voting machines.

The remainder would stay with returning officers until additional locations were found, he said.

It has also emerged that the Environment Minister John Gormley has revealed that the machines, which are already a few years old, have a lifespan of 20 years.

However, returning officers in some counties have taken out leases to store them that will still be in operation when the computers become obsolete.

Fine Gael TD Sean Barrett said that 25-year storage agreements were a case of "throwing bad money after good'" and "bordering on lunacy".

Incredible

"None of it makes any sense and the amount of money being spent on storage is incredible," he said.

"The cabinet committee that is deciding the fate of these machines has not met for months but people have lost confidence in them and their manufacturer has gone out of business."

A Department of Environ- ment spokesperson said that the length of the storage leases had been decided by the returning officers.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands, home of the NEDAP voting machines, has abandoned them for the foreseeable future. Dutch IT experts demonstrated that the type of machine chosen by the Irish Government for election counts could be secretly hacked.

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