Turnbull and Shorten back e-voting

Bipartisan support to investigate potential of electronic voting

Image credit: AEC

Image credit: AEC

Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull and Labor leader Bill Shorten have both endorsed Australia moving towards the use of electronic voting for federal elections.

“I actually think that it is long overdue to look at electronic voting in this country,” Shorten said at a press conference yesterday. “I think that we should, in a bipartisan fashion set the ground work for electronic voting. We can't afford to have our nation drift for eight days after an election.”

Shorten said he would write to Turnbull expressing support for a move to e-voting.

Turnbull yesterday said he had advocated a move to e-voting for a long time. “Yes this is something we must look at,” the prime minister said at a press conference.

Turnbull commended the work of the New South Wales Electoral Commission, whose iVote system has helped blind, vision-impaired and voters with a disability cast their votes.

Last week, as the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) continued counting the votes from the 2 July election, tech industry group the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) called for the government to invest in electronic voting.

“The process today is extraordinarily inefficient and expensive,” AIIA CEO Rob Fitzpatrick said.

“With electronic voting in place, we would have known the results of our election minutes after the polls closed on Saturday, and everyone could get on with their jobs. And the election itself would have cost a lot less money to run.”

“Money invested in a universal electronic voting system would return savings very quickly,” the AIIA CEO said. “And the government should be on the front foot of innovation and change. With the technology available today, electronic voting makes so much sense. Why spend valuable taxpayer funds on this 19th century practice when that money could be put to far better use?”

Read more: Australian Electoral Commission moves websites to the cloud

The potential shift to e-voting has vocal critics and the AEC itself has cautioned against any rush to implement electronic voting.

The AEC in 2007 conducted limited electronic voting trials for vision impaired people and members of the Australian armed forces. The trial was “generally well received” but the per vote cost was “significant”, an AEC official told a 2014 hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

The AEC said that it did not have the internal capacity to implement e-voting on a large scale and would have to work with industry.

The committee later in 2014 concluded that electronic voting could not be introduced in the near future without high costs and unacceptable security risks but that it was likely the technology would evolve allowing e-voting to be used for federal elections.

Read more: ​AEC migrating IT infrastructure to NextDC's C1

Victoria is currently holding an inquiry into electronic voting.

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Rohan Pearce

Rohan Pearce

Computerworld
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