AEC seeks e-voting system

The Australian Electoral Commission has gone to tender for an electronic voting system, but one that is specifically not used in parliamentary elections.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has gone to tender for an electronic voting system to be used for commercial elections, but not for political elections.

The request for tender, issued late last week, states that the AEC is facing growing demand from its commercial clients to have online ballots. The AEC said this was especially strong when it came to voting for enterprise agreements.

"For the AEC to remain competitive with other election service providers, new methods of voting, such as electronic voting, need to be implemented to meet the changing client expectations," the AEC said in its statement of requirements.

The system will need to be able to manage yes/no ballots in multiple formats with up to 100 questions, allow secure and anonymous online votes, allow users to log in to vote with an approved identifier, generate emails to voters, be able to compare postal and electronic votes to prevent duplicate votes, prevent the ability to cast an informal vote, count the votes, archive votes and logins, and keep a backup.

The system must be compatible with the AEC's internal systems, and must work on Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.

The sytem will use the AEC's infrastructure, and the security standards must comply with Defence Signals Directorate requirements. The commission has said that the system will need to be in place by the end of 2013.

The AEC specifically stated that the system will not include functionality for parliamentary elections, elections to office, or polling place electronic voting machines.

There have been a number of trials of electronic voting for parliamentary elections, notably in the 2007 federal election and the 2011 New South Wales state election, and the ACT has used electronic voting extensively for its elections.

Following the 2007 federal election, where electronic voting was tested with both the Australian Defence Force and for a number of vision-impaired voters, the AEC found that the trials were a success, but the combined cost of both trials was AU$4 million, with a per-voter cost of AU$2,597, compared to the AU$8.36 cost per voter in the 2007 election, generally.

Due to the high cost, a parliamentary committee looking into electronic voting, recommended that trials should not be continued for future federal elections, but according to a Parliamentary Library background note published in October last year (PDF), the AEC is still looking at developing assisted telephone voting methods for blind and low-vision voters.

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