[LINK] Voters could log on to skip the ballot box

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Thu Sep 24 09:08:46 AEST 2009

Voters could log on to skip the ballot box
Nicola Berkovic
September 24, 2009
The Australian

SPECIAL Minister of State Joe Ludwig has flagged his desire to make 
better use of the internet in the electoral process, including allowing 
Australians to enrol to vote and update their details online.

Releasing the Rudd government's second electoral reform green paper 
yesterday, Senator Ludwig said: "My proposition is this: a 21st century 
electoral system should take advantage of 21st century technology if it 
is to work effectively in the service of its citizens."

As revealed in The Australian yesterday, the government has also thrown 
open the option of enabling citizens to cast their vote online.

The green paper canvasses removing compulsory voting and an overhaul of 
the system of electing MPs, including optional preferential voting for 
the lower house. It also seeks comment on whether individuals should be 
automatically added to the electoral roll, whether non-citizens should 
vote and whether exclusions on voting should be maintained for prisoners 
of three years or more.

The green paper is part of the second stage of the government's overhaul 
of the electoral system. The first stage focused on donations and 
campaign financing.

The opposition's spokesman on affairs of state, Michael Ronaldson, 
immediately attacked the idea of online voting. "I remain deeply 
sceptical about any changes to the mechanics of voting," he said. 
Instead, the government needed to crack down on those who failed to vote 
or enrol. "The current penalties for failing to enrol, or keep that 
enrolment up to date, or for not voting, are, in my view, grossly 
inadequate," he said.

Senator Ronaldson also called for better data-matching between the 
Australian Electoral Commission, its state and territory counterparts 
and commonwealth government bodies to ensure the rolls were accurate and 

"I know that there will be cries of Big Brother," he said. "But the 
simple fact is that at best estimates, there are one million people 
eligible to vote who are not currently on the electoral roll ... the 
equivalent of more than 10 federal electorates."

The Rudd government will also focus on changes that would lead to more 
Australians casting a valid vote, including possibly extending the 
close-of-rolls period once an election had been called.

Senator Ludwig told the AEC seminar in Canberra yesterday that at the 
2007 federal election, more than 2.3 million Australians who were 
entitled to vote did not have their votes counted. "Our democracy is 
poorer for it," he said. "I would like to see us working on all fronts 
to maximise participation."

He said the last major overhaul of the Electoral Act was 25 years ago 
and it was time to look at whether it needed updating. The green paper 
also looks at the possibly of lowering the voting age.


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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