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Morgan slates Cullen's assault on democracy

31 March, 2004

Speaking during the second stage debate on the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2004, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D angrily rebuked Minister Cullen for trampling on the democratic rights of citizens.

Deputy Morgan said, "The Minister is basically asking voters to put their ballot paper into a black hole and trust the an e-voting system where the source code is not even available to the Government let alone to the public. There is not even a provision for the Commission on Electronic voting to examine the source code! Can we really trust an e-voting system where the source code is not publicly available?

"The defining feature of the whole electronic voting debacle has been its anti-democratic nature. It seems to be the thing to do in this coalition is to trample over the democratic rights of citizens. In assaulting the electoral process Minister Cullen has outdone himself. In one foul swoop he has a ploughed a wrecking ball through our electoral system. Without any justification he has decided to introduce fundamental changes in how we vote. The whole farce has acted as a distraction from the Minister's abysmal record since taking office.

"The Minister is guided in the introduction of e-voting by his own arrogance and the contempt in which this government holds democracy and the will of the people. He has only reluctantly introduced the legislation before this House today, having initially claimed that primary legislation was not required and that it could be introduced by way of Ministerial order.

"There is a fundamental issue of conflict of interest through the Minister being Director of Elections for Fianna Fáil while remaining in charge of organising the forthcoming elections. The Minister should decide which position he chooses to hold on to, or declare an interest in the whole issue before the Dáil.

"Here we have an opportunistic Minister who defected to Fianna Fáil from the PD's for his own advancement blindly following the American example. The American public learned the perils of electronic voting when it too was forced upon in the form of the Diebold Election System. Why are we being dragged down the same misguided path by this Minister?

"Where e-voting has been used there have been an array of other problems including machines that sometimes failing to boot up, fail to record votes or even record them for the wrong candidates.

"Without a paper trail voters cannot be assured that the choice which they entered on the machine is the same as that which is recorded by the machine. This is the fundamental problem which this legislation does nothing to address. Unfortunately computers are unreliable and can be interfered with.

"Sinn Féin will be putting forward amendments to this Bill to ensure that a paper copy of the vote, verified by the voter, is held for the purpose of independent recount and calling for all source code and design to be publicly available for inspection by citizens and especially by Computer Science experts." ENDS

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