May 3, 2004

Irish gov't says, 'No source code, no e-voting'

Author: By Fergus Cassidy

Dublin, Ireland - Ireland has pressed the abort button on electronic voting. In a humiliating
climb down, the government has accepted the conclusions of a commission
hastily set up to examine the secrecy and accuracy of the system planned for
use in next month's local and European parliamentary elections.The Commission on Electronic Voting reported that it did not obtain access
to the full source code and there is not sufficient time before the June
elections to allow a full code review of the final version of the software
that would be necessary.

That lack of time is believed to hinge on the inability of the government
and the source code vendors to reach an agreement on releasing the code to
third parties for testing and review.

The government has spent Euro50m ($60m) on the machines and voting software
and a further Euro5m ($5.9m) was earmarked for a national publicity
campaign, which has now been abandoned.

Although the voting machines were bought outright by the State, the source
code remains the property of the Nedap/Powervote consortium and was only
leased to the government.

It is believed that a stand-off existed between the consortium and the
government over the release of the source code to third parties.
Nedap/Powervote sought a Euro200m ($239m) indemnity from the State before it
would supply the code.

The Government agreed to offer the indemnity but the Irish parliament could
not pass the required legislation in time.

Such legislation would have indemnified Nedap/Powervote for any loss or
damage in respect of intellectual property rights or other loss or damage
that may have arisen.

Voting will now take place using traditional paper and ballot boxes.

In related news, The Economic Times of India reports that a retired
computer science professor has lodged a public interest litigation with the
Indian Supreme Court. Dr Satinath Choudhary is a graduate of the Indian
Institute of Technology and has also taught in the US.

India, with a population of over 1bn, is currently holding elections for the
first time using machines.

Citing security risks, the litigation seeks the Supreme Court's intervention
and direction to bar the Electoral Commission from using the voting
machines. Dr Choudhary is also looking for a paper trail or record in case
of a suspicion about the poll results.

Fergus Cassidy is a technology columnist with The Sunday Tribune.


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