Monday 19 August 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'E-voting would get my first preference'


'E-voting? It has my number one.' (stock photo)
'E-voting? It has my number one.' (stock photo)
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

Endless stacks of ballot papers, already thumbed, tallied, bundled, counted and rechecked were under scrutiny in the Ireland South constituency again today as a recount got underway.

You might have forgotten and probably don't care, but you're going to have to pay for it anyway. A mere million euro.

Fiddly loose change, I suppose.

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It's also going to take a full month, which is 28 days, out of all our lives that we can't claim back from the taxman.

All this because out of a massive 750,000 votes cast, there are only wispy hairs splitting Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada and the Green's Grace O'Sullivan.

Between that pair and Fine Gael's Deirdre Clune there are two boarding passes for Brussels waiting to be printed.

One of the three will eventually be sent home, a bit like at the end of each week's 'Great British Bake-Off' but without having a nice cream sponge to show for it.

That is likely to be Ní Riada and you can only feel for a candidate who knows lousy news is imminent but has to pretend that she's still in with a shout rather than a whimper.

This should all be dramatic and endlessly exciting. Except it's not. Instead it's a costly farce and everyone knows it.

It would be called out as such if hyperventilating journalists covering it weren't enjoying themselves so much.

I voted in this constituency and carefully and assiduously travelled down the ballot scroll, itself the length of a runway at a regional airport.

I had been looking forward to following up on the results as I am always curious to see how transfers fan out like a creeper up a garden wall.

Alas, 11 days later I am no wiser and I won't be for ages yet, so I'm past caring now. To mangle a phrase, democracy delayed is democracy denied. If this had to be, I'd live with it. I have no problem with contested votes being forensically poked at as if burnt embers in an arson.

But why pencil-and-paper ballots in 2019 when so much in our daily lives unfolds electronically?

When did you last book a flight over a counter, queue in a bank to liberate cash, or get in line for a train ticket?

Even buying a litre of milk is a transaction that can be completed with the swipe of a barcode.

You can, of course, do most of these things the traditional way, but there is no need. Paper counts - expensive, exhausting, exasperating and error-prone - have about as much relevance in the 21st century as a glimmer man strolling Temple Bar.

E-voting? It has my number one.

Forgetfulness? I have it in the bag at this stage

To do it once was careless. To do it twice within a few days really unnerved me.

Flying out of Dublin last week I abandoned my carry-on at security and was ordering a coffee in Butler's before I noticed it missing.

Panic, of course, and a wild dash back to find it waiting for me unmolested if a little forlorn.

Lesson learned. Or so you'd like to think. Coming back through Newcastle a few days later, guess what?

This time I orphaned the same bag in WH Smiths and was only re-united with it after another mad dash here, there and nowhere.

This time a polite and patient member of airport staff returned it with an indulgent smile, as if I was the last one through departures from the Annual Village Idiot Convention.

One senior moment is forgivable but two in the space of a few days looks worryingly like a pattern.

I'm dreading the third.

Irish Independent

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