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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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E-voting machines won't be returning for future elections

The minister said Irish citizens have no urge to depart from the pencil and the ballot paper.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THERE IS NO prospect of e-voting machines ever returning in the short, medium or long term.

Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan told reporters that there is no question of the pencil and the ballot paper being removed from the Irish election process.

He made the comments at the launch of a public consultation into the establishment of a new Electoral Commission.

He said the Irish public have a genuine interest in ‘the count’, with many families taking their children to polling stations to see democracy “in front of their eyes”. 

Phelan said Irish citizens have no urge to depart from the pencil and the ballot paper. 

“I certainly wouldn’t be keen for that type of approach to change very much,” he said, adding that there is something “quaint and fantastic of having polling stations in the middle of nowhere”. 

E-voting machines

E-voting machines were purchased by the State at a cost of €51 million back in 2002. But they were only ever used in three constituencies at the 2002 general election – Dublin North, Dublin West and Meath – and the second referendum on the Nice Treaty later that year.

Since then their storage has cost the State around €4 million and led to much ridicule including from the former Finance Minister Michael Noonan who suggested  they could be put in pubs as the machines were “valueless”. 

In 2012,  the ill-fated e-voting machines were disposed of after the then-Environment Minister Phil Hogan signed a contract with a metal recycling company to take the 7,500 machines off the State’s hands.

Describing it as a “sorry episode”, Hogan said the contract with Tullamore-based KMK Metals Recycling Limited will see the firm pay just over €70,000 to the State for all the equipment, gradually removing them from storage and disposing them.

The government is on the path to reforming the electoral register, with the department opening a public consultation on whether PPS numbers can be used to clean up the register. 

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