Why is Australia slow at electronic voting uptake? The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) says that with e-voting in place, we would already know the results of the Federal election.
The AIIA, the tech industry's 'peak' industry body, says electronic voting could be as simple as installing computer stations at polling booths, online and mobile voting.
“The process today is extraordinarily inefficient and expensive. With electronic voting in place, we would have known the results of our election minutes after the polls closed on Saturday, and everyone could get on with their jobs. And the election itself would have cost a lot less money to run,” says Rob Fitzpatrick, CEO of the AIIA.
The electronic method would decrease the costs and time spent on elections - the 2013 Federal election cost $193 million.
The electronic method would also increase the security and integrity of the entire voting process, particularly in today's paper era that is still prone to misplacement, miscounted and misread. Fitzpatrick cites the 2013 Western Australia Senate election as an example.
“Money invested in a universal electronic voting system would return savings very quickly and the government should be on the front foot of innovation and change. With the technology available today, electronic voting makes so much sense. Why spend valuable taxpayer funds on this 19th Century practice when that money could be put to far better use?” says Fitzpatrick.
Australia has started adopted electronic voting in Victorian state elections since 2006, through Electronically Assisted Voting (EAV). New South Wales adopted a remote voting system called iVote in 2011 for those who are disabled, visually-impaired or live more than 20 kilometres from a polling station. AIIA says that the iVote platform has been successful, receiving 283,669 votes in the 2015 New South Wales elections.
Fitzpatrick says these examples show that the system works and it's time to take the infrastructure throughout Australia.
“All Brazilian elections have been fully electronic since 2000, and countries like India and Estonia have electronic voting on a large scale, so we know it can be done,” concludes Fitzpatrick.
However, the security risks around e-voting need to be taken into account and machines would need to counter cyber attacks, says Nick FitzGerald, senior research fellow at ESET.
“Electronic voting seems like a rational step towards improving the efficiency of voting systems as we’re now used to doing almost everything online or via electronic devices. However, if a government body were to get involved in an electronic voting process, they’d need to recognise the potential cybersecurity impact and risks,” says FitzGerald.
“The value of undetectably subverting the result of an election is enormous, and there are well-placed concerns that poorly designed or implemented e-voting and i-voting systems could make achieving this much easier than in conventional voting systems. For example, in the US in the last couple of decades, there have been many issues with the voting machines themselves, not to mention the vote collating processes and so on. There are many lessons to be learned there,” FitzGerald concludes.
AIIA plans to encourage government to adopt digital transformation through the formation of a digital economy, employee work skills, tech adoption in business, and fast rollout of NBN and 5G networks.