NSW confirms iVote system will be scrapped for next year's state election

The iVote system had already been shelved for reconfiguration after its failure during local elections last year.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

New South Wales Residents Head To Polls In State Election

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The NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) has confirmed it will scrap using the iVote system for next year's state election as there is a lack of confidence it will be ready in time.

The decision comes after an unknown number of voters were unable to cast a vote during local elections at the end of last year due to the iVote online voting system suffering a failure for a portion of the voting period.

An NSWEC investigation into the local election bungle found the system failure impacted the outcomes of three local elections.

The NSWEC had already shelved the iVote system for "extensive reconfiguration and testing" to resolve the issues encountered during local elections, but the latest move indicates the system will not be used until at least March 25 next year.

"The current version of the iVote software used by the Electoral Commission will be phased out and the short runway for configuring and testing a new version before March 2023 means the Electoral Commissioner cannot be confident an updated system adapted for elections in NSW will be ready in time," the NSWEC said in a statement.

The decision to scrap using the iVote system until next year at the earliest also means it will not be used for any intervening by-elections in the lead up to the state election.

For core users of the iVote system, people with disability and those who are based overseas or in remote areas, the NSWEC said it would explore other ways to support their participation in future elections. In particular, the electoral commissioner will be recommending to the NSW Government for ordinary telephone voting to still be made available for blind and low vision electors.

During the system failure's aftermath, Dr Vanessa Teague, a cryptographer with a particular interest in privacy and election security, criticised the flaws within the iVote system.

"Every serious investigation of iVote found serious problems," Teague tweeted in December in light of the iVote failure.

Teague's comments at the end of last year were not her first in warning about the iVote system's flaws. Starting in 2015, she and her colleagues found numerous flaws in iVote, problems that NSWEC had previously downplayed

At the federal level, Australia's electoral commissioner launched a new disinformation register last week to debunk misleading and deceptive information regarding how elections are run to protect the integrity of the country's upcoming federal election.

The Australian Electoral Commission said its main focus for the upcoming federal election would be handling the recent uptick of election conspiracy theories circulating online.

Social media companies, meanwhile, have given assurances that they will allocate more resources for monitoring election disinformation and misinformation for the upcoming Australian federal election. On Tuesday, Meta unveiled its plan for handling election misinformation, which it labelled as its most comprehensive package ever in Australia.

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