Electronic Voting

BallotPaperWell we have had an election, and ten days after the polls, with two seats still in doubt, we now know that the next Parliament will be led by an L.N.P. Prime Minister. It may well take a month before we get to the bottom of the Senate.

One would have to say that the method of polling in Australia is somewhat antiquated. The loose plan is that at some time in a ten hour period we will all physically appear and get our name marked off the roll at a local polling station and then with a pencil make the approved marks on the printed ballot paper and then insert same into the appropriate receptacle.

There are a few failings in the current system. In any given electorate there may be as many as a dozen or more polling places, and because the roll is not electronic, it is conceivable that a person could vote more than once in an election. This is augmented by the fact that there is no realistic identity check, save I assume that there is a discrete level of gender assumption going on.

Another failing in the current system is different voting rules in different elections. In the State Poll you can mark from 1 to as far as you want to go, and if your votes get preferenced to the point where there is nowhere for it to go, it expires or is exhausted. In the Federal Election if you do not mark every box the vote is deemed informal and not counted at all. I am not arguing which is right or wrong, just simply that they should all be the same.

The Senate Paper groups candidates above the line, and you are expected to vote 1 to at least 6 from in the recent election a list of 41 parties. This meant that the ballot was effectively a nightmare to manage and I think in length about twice the width of the polling booth.

The current system also means that many of the parties staff many of the polling places with people handing out how to votes. The amount of paper waste generated by an election is inconceivable. It is a reckless waste of resources, to serve very little purpose.

The counting procedure is a manual process, sorting ballots into heaps tallying totals and distributing preferences in a process that can, and often does, go on for weeks. In the case of the previous election they lost some ballots in WA and the vote had to be re-taken.

It seems that the obvious solution is to look at a system of electronic voting, which would allow the capture of votes in a meaningful way, and reduce the tally time to hours rather than weeks. And both the Prime Minister elect and the Opposition Leader have spoke about the need to do something.

One matter of serious concern in the recent election is that there are more than 550,000 informal votes for the Senate. This may reflect a disengaged electorate, a ridiculous ballot paper, or some other problems. Another matter of concern are stories of people being given ballot papers for the wrong electorate, or turned away from a polling place because they had run out of ballot papers.

We would not be the first to use electronic voting. India does it. The USA does it. There are lessons to be learned. The process needs to be absolute secure and reliable, the votes need to be private, and those who run the system need to be above reproach. In the USA this has been out-sourced, which seems to be a very bad idea – indeed a very very bad idea. Links between polling machine companies and political parties seem to abound, and there have been several results which have been seriously questioned. The process must be absolutely not privatised if we are to trust it. There is reasonable evidence to suggest that Gore beat Bush on the vote count, however by fair means or probably foul Bush was declared the winner.  If Trump beat Rubio in Florida, was that because he got more votes, or because he had caught the attention of the company running the polling system for whatever reason? The system needs to be impeccable, and in my opinion part of that means that it needs to be run by the Australian Electoral Commission, and subject to an audit to ensure the validity of the whole process by the Auditor General. Have a look on YouTube if you wont to be worried about this stuff.

  1. We need to preclude the early extra democrats, those who vote early and vote often.
  2. We need to preclude those who vote from the grave – the recently deceased who have been know to vote (and sometimes more than once).
  3. We need standard the voting procedures between state and federal.
  4. We need to alert people that a vote may be informal before it is committed.
  5. We need to system to be very secure and reliable, so that Australians may trust the authenticity of the result.

I guess what I am saying is “Lets go there, but lets do it better!”



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