Electronic voting recommended for NSW state and local elections

Electronic voting recommended for NSW state and local elections

Summary: A major expansion of electronic voting through the iVote system would help improve voter turnout for local council and state elections, according to a New South Wales parliamentary committee.

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The New South Wales Joint Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Matters has recommended that the New South Wales electronic voting system iVote, be expanded in time to allow all voters to choose to vote electronically by the 2016 council election, and all subsequent state elections.

The iVote system was implemented ahead of the 2011 state election for vision-impaired voters, and those living in rural areas that have difficulty in reaching polling places. Voters are provided a 6-digit PIN in one letter, and an 8-digit iVote number separately via email, SMS, or phone, to enable access to the iVote system.

The votes are stored in central servers in two datacentres and printed at the close of polls for manual counting. Take-up in 2011 was much higher than the 10,000 expected, with 46,864 voters using the iVote system. Approximately 94 percent of those who used the iVote system were reported to have been satisfied with it.

In a report handed down earlier this week, the committee said that voter turnout is consistently lower for local elections than state and federal elections, and the 2012 local elections saw the percentage of voters turning out drop from 83.4 percent in 2008 to 82.1 percent, despite voting in local elections being compulsory. The City of Sydney had the second highest non-participation rate with 25.5 percent of the electorate not voting in 2012.

The committee said that to improve voter turnout, the New South Wales government should expand the iVote system to all voters in the 2016 election, and then all subsequent state elections.

"The committee considers it sensible, appropriate and timely that the government enable all electors the ability to cast a technology‐assisted ballot, through an iVote, for the 2016 local government elections," the committee said.

"Allowing for universal iVote to work in tandem with postal voting will give many electors an alternative to vote by using their preferred method. In enabling these options, voter participation in the electoral process is likely to increase through greater accessibility to voting."

Ahead of the expected concerns raised over the potential for votes to be compromised through hacking or manipulation of the software, the committee recommended that there be an independent review of the iVote software prior to the next election.

The New South Wales government has yet to respond to the committee's report, but must provide a response by September 27.

The timing of the implementation of the proposed expansion of the iVote system would mean it would not be ready in time for the 2015 NSW state election.

Late last year, the New South Wales Electoral Commission went to tender to develop the interface for the iVote system, including the potential development of iOS and Android apps for the iVote system.

The Department of Communications this month has recommended the federal government consider its own trial of electronic voting for the 2016 federal election.

Topics: Government, Government AU

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Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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3 comments
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  • Troubling

    The system would have to be far more rigorous than anyof the systems used in the US.

    It is hard to see how an electronic system can be audited accurately.

    With the paper system it is always possible to go back to paper and recount. If the paper is missing then the vote can be invalidated as has happened in WA.

    With an electronic system what primary evidence is there that a vote did or did not occur or was the vote as included in the count? A server log is not infallible even as you can't prove what didn't get to the server or what log entry was changed.

    The US systems are regularly used to alter the vote and usually very easily.
    richardw66
  • Fear and trepidation

    It remains the case that it's mathematically impossible for an election conducted over a computer network to be both secret and secure, unless the clients are controlled by the authority conducting the election. At least absentee ballot envelopes can be opened and the sealed ballots put directly into the box in the presence of witnesses. That said, I'm not all that thrilled about mail balloting either, for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that it makes it easier to dictate to voters (which is probably why parties sometimes encourage people to vote absentee).

    Even if such an election were conducted completely honestly, an election conducted over the Internet could be no more than confidential (and even that would prompt integrity questions). They could not be truly secret.
    John L. Ries
  • Wow, after this past year...

    With all that we now know of what just the US NSA has been able to do, and consider the US is just one nation state out there with cyber warfare and political spying and manipulation going on, why on earth would you trust your nations voting to systems online.

    That's just insane.
    Rann Xeroxx