[LINK] Voted Electronically in the Australian Federal Election

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Wed Nov 21 13:18:18 AEDT 2007

Howard Lowndes wrote:
> This is interesting as I am doing PPM for the Albury polling station 
> and our divisional offices have the electronic system available at the 
> pre-poll station in Albury.  Given that the Farrer electorate extends 
> from somewhere near Kosiosko (??sp) to the SA and Qld borders I don't 
> see an electronic polling station in Albury being of much benefit to 
> the majority of the division.
> One thing that is missing at this election, that we had at the state 
> election, is the electronic state roll on a Palm PDA.  Once you got 
> used to how to work it I found that it was very useful for identifying 
> the electorates for absent voters.
> BTW, if you need to make a provisional vote (not on roll, already 
> marked on roll, etc) then you will be required to provide proof of 
> identity, though that can be done up to 5 days later.  You cannot be 
> asked to provide PoI for ordinary, absent or silent votes.
> I disagree that encouraging pre-polling would reduce the expense of 
> elections.  The staffing, bookings, material requirements have to be 
> done before the pre-polling starts, so it has to be planned on a worst 
> case scenario.  I know that over time there could be a prediction of 
> the likely pre-poll demand, just as there is currently a prediction of 
> the demand on each polling booth, but even so there has to be a good 
> level of slack built into the predictions.
...and why, apart from an absorption of industry PR, is there an 
obsession with "reduce the cost of elections"? Australia has a pretty 
cheap democracy - very cheap considering that we seem pretty robust as 

Anyhow, Tom: there is a more direct measure. Are our elections *now* 
expensive or cheap per-capita? If they're expensive, are they more 
expensive than places already using machines? Is the cost justified 
given other considerations (transparency, participation, distance 
covered for very small electorates, etc)? The "cost of elections" is not 
a simple continuum between two points, with pencil and paper at one end 
and computers at the other ... it's more complex than that.

> BTW, almost invariably the pre-poll station is not a polling station 
> on election day.  It will, however, still operate as an interstate 
> polling station on polling day.
> Tom Worthington wrote:
>> On Saturday I voted electronically in the Australian federal 
>> election, using the system for people who are blind or have low 
>> vision. The system worked and I suggest should be an option for 
>> pre-polling at the next election for all voters. There is a separate 
>> system for overseas defense personnel to vote electronically.
>> I voted electronically in the last two ACT (Canberra) local 
>> government elections. As I was going to be spending election day at a 
>> meeting interstate, I decided to cast an early vote. The pre polling 
>> place was equipped with the trial electronic system and have less 
>> than perfect eyesight, I decided to try it.
>> The system worked fine and was much the same as used in the ACT 
>> elections, as both were produced by the same company for a similar 
>> electoral process. My detaile comments are at: 
>> <http://www.tomw.net.au/blog/2007/11/voted-electronically-in-australian.html>. 
>> It should be noted that the system I used to vote is not "Internet 
>> voting". The voter uses a computer to record a vote, the votes are 
>> then printed as barcodes, transported to a counting room, scanned and 
>> counted. The system used in the ACT elections is more electronic, 
>> with votes recorded on disk, not paper. But even with this system the 
>> votes are not sent over the Internet.
>> The system being trialled for ADF and civilian defence staff overseas 
>> is more like an Internet voting system. This system uses a web based 
>> interface, but is on the secure Defence computer network, not the 
>> public Internet.
>> It would be prohibitively expensive to use the system I used for all 
>> electors in Australian federal elections. But as with the ACT system, 
>> it would be feasible to equip the larger polling places, which are 
>> also used also for pre-polls, with electronic equipment. Currently 
>> the electoral act limits pre-poll voting to a few people. The result 
>> is that these polling booths are under-used. If the Act was changed 
>> to allow anyone to vote early, that would allow the collection and 
>> counting of perhaps 50% of the votes electronically. This would lower 
>> the cost of the election and speed the result. Those who did not want 
>> to use the electronic system could still vote on paper and could wait 
>> until polling day, if they wanted to.
>> Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
>> Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd            ABN: 17 088 714 309
>> PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617                      
>> http://www.tomw.net.au/
>> Adjunct Senior Lecturer, ANU 
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