E-voting ruled out by Australia – for now

Risks of e-voting outweigh benefits – for now

While some democracies prefer electronic voting, such as USA using voting machines and Estonia offering e-voting, but Australia is not ready for widespread online voting in federal elections.

The Interim report of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matter, released on Thursday (20 Nov.) recommended against e-voting in Australia stating that large-scale electronic voting could mean “catastrophically compromising electoral integrity” system. The decision of the Committee came forward after deliberately examining the 2013 Senate ballot in Western Australia .

online-votingAmong the risks the committee cited from e-voting were hackers, the cost of creating and administering the scheme, voters’ privacy and security concerns. While the committee noted it was a possibility in the future, it was also concerned other nations that had invested in e-voting systems had walked away from the idea.

“Ultimately, the committee has concluded that electronic voting can’t be introduced in the near future without high costs and unacceptable security risks,” the chair of committee, Liberal MP Tony Smith, said in a statement.

“The Committee believes that it is likely that technology will evolve to the point that it will be possible to vote electronically in federal elections,” the interim report states. “At that stage the question for a future Parliament, and the voting public, will be whether the convenience of electronic voting outweighs the risks to the sanctity of the ballot.

However, the report did recommend using electronically connected rolls to ensure people did not vote twice at different booths.  Pre-poll centres, mobile voting team, electronic counting and storage of ballot paper were some of the recommendations by the Committee as it considers that there is opportunity for this technology to be developed collaboratively and shared with the states and territories.

In December last year the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters was given the job of examining the fiasco which saw Western Australian voters return to the poll after ballots were lost in the state’s tightly contested 2013 Senate race.

“The Committee is of the view that a secure and robust electronic support system is an immediate future goal for democratic practice in Australia,” the report concludes.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

Tribune International