Australian Budget 2019: Electoral Commission gets AU$11m for polling place tech and IT upgrades

The AEC will be going to market so it can deploy new polling place technology and upgrade its ‘aging core infrastructure’, thanks to almost AU$11 million in funding.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) will be given AU$10.8 million over the next two years to upgrade its IT infrastructure and implement more polling place technology under the 2019-20 Federal Budget.

The funding will be separated into AU$4 million in 2019-20 and AU$6.7 million in 2020-21.

It will specifically see the AEC "approach the market to scope the deployment of new polling place technology and upgrades to the AEC's ageing core ICT infrastructure", according to the Budget documents.

The funding follows electronic voting for citizens previously gaining bipartisan support, with both former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and current opposition leader Bill Shorten advocating for electronic voting following the 2016 federal election.

"We're a grown-up democracy; it shouldn't be taking eight days to find out who's won and who's lost," Shorten said while conceding the election a week after polls closed.

"I take nothing away from the professionalism of the Australian Electoral Commission, but it's the 21st century."

The AEC came under fire last year for lacking on the security front with its ballot scanning system, provided by Fuji Xerox Businessforce, after the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) said AEC had discarded compliance with Australian government IT security frameworks.

ANAO also said insufficient attention was paid to assuring the security and integrity of the data generated both during and after operation.

Meanwhile, organisations such as Australia Post have advocated putting citizen voting on a blockchain.

In New South Wales, electronic voting already exists.

However, last month, security researchers Sarah Jamie Lewis, Olivier Pereira, and Vanessa Teague detailed a flaw in the Swiss Internet voting system -- the same system used by the New South Wales Electoral Commission -- that could allow vote tampering.

The researchers shortly detailed the discovery of another flaw that could be exploited to potentially create a tampered election outcome. The second flaw was found through an independent method by which a proof mechanism in sVote could be subverted to prove an election outcome that has actually been manipulated.

The NSWEC claimed it was unaffected by the first flaw because its mixnet was not connected to any systems and was "securely housed" at the NSWEC; and it similarly said it was confident it had not been affected by the second flaw.

How much of the Budget becomes enacted remains to be seen, as the government is expected to call a May election this weekend.

Australian Budget 2019 Coverage