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Kevin Doyle: 'A one-month recount is democracy delayed'


Director of elections: Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

Director of elections: Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

Director of elections: Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

Electronic voting comes second only to water charges on the list of politically toxic ideas to raise in Ireland.

It would take a very brave minister to push for an end to our love affair with the 'auld pencil' and paper. Step forward Charlie Flanagan.

The Justice Minister was Fine Gael's director of elections for the mammoth Ireland South constituency where 750,000 cast their vote in the European elections on May 24. It's now June 3. And we may not have a result until the start of July.

There's no doubt that the situation is, as the minister put it, "mind-boggling".

He believes it is justification for opening up a fresh discussion on electronic voting, something people have been afraid to do for the past two decades.

Late last year, the Minister with responsibility for Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan, categorically ruled out considering the notion.

"There is no prospect in the short to medium term of the chicken coops being taken out of retirement and used," he said.

Mr Phelan argued there was something "quaint but also fantastic" about our old-fashioned system.

"The image which appears regularly of a ballot box being transferred to an island, it's a great image and it goes everywhere," he said.

But we live in a fast-moving world where being 'quaint' is rarely reason enough to stop progress.

The recount in Ireland South is also far from quaint. Yes, it's democracy in action - but it will also amount to democracy delayed if counting is still going on when the next European Parliament convenes on July 2.

Mr Flanagan notes that the public now interact with government services using technology. The courts and other pillars of State rely heavily on IT.

Ireland is not alone in having had a bad experience with electronic votes. The Netherlands tried it in 2007 and Germany in 2009 but both countries ran into similar problems. France dropped plans to let its citizens abroad vote electronically because of concern about the risk of cyber attacks. But the US along with parts of Canada and Belgium make it work.

E-voting may not be the answer, but Ireland South shows a conversation about what represents a timely conclusion to an election is needed.

Irish Independent