Principal offers to buy e-voting machine — for €1

A SCHOOL principal made an official approach to the Government last night to buy one of the state’s controversial e-voting machines for €1.

Gerry Kelly, the principal of St Colman’s Community College in Midleton, Co Cork, wrote to Environment Minister Phil Hogan outlining his offer in a bid to secure one of the machines for his school.

“I believe that if placed in secondary schools they would be a most valuable teaching aid for CSPE,” said Mr Kelly.

“They could also be used to conduct pupil council elections and the physical presence of the machines in schools, coupled with their history, should be a powerful motivator when encouraging pupils to exercise their franchise in future years.”

Mr Kelly said he first raised the idea of installing the unused machines in Irish secondary schools at a TUI congress two years ago.

However, the Fine Gael member of Cork County Council said the time was right to raise the idea again after the Government’s announcement on Wednesday that it planned to try and sell the 7,500 machines.

They have cost the state nearly €55 million since 2002. Finance Minister Michael Noonan said they are now “valueless”.

Tenders will be issued before the end of this month seeking proposals for either the purchase or disposal of the equipment.

Mr Hogan said he wanted to finally draw a line under the failed e-voting project and get as much of the cost back as is possible in the circumstances.

The Government is looking to sell, recycle or dispose of 7,500 voting machines; 154 reading units for uploading candidate details and downloading votes; 12,842 ballot modules used to store votes cast; 292 cases for carrying the units and modules; 1,232 transport and storage trolleys and 2,142 hand trolleys; 4,787 metal tilt tables the machines sit on; and 918 tray attachments.

The Government agreed to buy the machines for €50m after they were piloted in several constituencies in the 2002 general election and in the Nice referendum. Plans to use them in the 2004 European and local elections were scrapped after controversy over the software and the traceability of votes.

Since then, the total cost to the taxpayer of their purchase and storage has risen to €54.7m.

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