Fuji Xerox scores another ballot screening contract with the AEC

For almost AU$2 million, Fuji Xerox will be screening the ballots for the 2019 federal election.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has awarded another contract to Fuji Xerox Businessforce to provide a ballot scanning system to be used for the country's elections.

A spokesperson for the AEC told ZDNet that Fuji Xerox will carry out the scanning of, and data acquisition from, postal-vote applications for the 2019 federal election.

The AU$1.9 million contracts follows on from work done by the company for the 2016 federal election, which involved the scanning of postal-vote applications (PVA).

The company in March last year was also awarded a two-year AU$27 million contract for the supply of technology and equipment that will be extended for use by state and territory electoral commissions.

At the time, an AEC spokesperson said the new arrangement would see the company provide a "very similar" solution to the one used for the 2016 federal election, which the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) previously called out for lacking on the security front.

In particular, the ANAO said AEC ditched compliance with Australian government IT security frameworks and said insufficient attention was paid to assuring the security and integrity of the data generated both during and after operation, as the focus was on delivering a Senate scanning system by polling day -- 12 weeks out from the election.

Facing Senate Estimates early last year, Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said he was satisfied with the risks that the AEC accepted ahead of its go-live.

"They were not untreated risks -- we were aware of them," Rogers clarified.

"One of the comments in the report, or inference, is that I accepted a higher level of risk and in my way of thinking, that's what you do with projects. You identify the risks and mitigate or accept them. And for that particular project I was satisfied with the risks that we accepted."

In asking the AEC this week if they had any concerns that Fuji Xerox will perform in a similar manner to what it did during the 2016 election, the spokesperson was confident the contract will run smoothly.

"Since 2016, Fuji Xerox has provided a range of services to the AEC, and the work carried out specifically on PVA scanning has encountered no major problems -- demonstrated by the successful scanning of PVAs for the nine federal by-elections held by the AEC across Australia in 2017-18," the spokesperson said.

"The AEC is confident PVA scanning for the 2019 federal election will go smoothly."

The Electoral Commission also awarded a contract to Deakin University for "simulation services".

The AU$2 million contract sees Deakin expand work it did alongside the AEC to capture, analyse, and model data as part of simulations of certain election processes.

"The AEC is continuing this work to further improve the accuracy and range of computer-based models to assist in planning, resourcing, and delivering electoral events," the spokesperson continued.

"This will include capturing live data at electoral events, with the aim of improving the efficiency of AEC processes and, ultimately, enhancing the election experience for voters."

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