Australians didn’t vote electronically today and that’s ridiculous in 2019

As Australians head to bed tonight, it looks very much like the Coalition Government will returned to Government in the latest federal election.

Across the country thousands of booths were staffed to enable Aussies to get out and submit their vote and then grab a democracy sausage on the way out. The reality is this election broke a new record in the number of people who used pre-poll voting in the 3 weeks leading up to today.

It is understood that the growth in pre-polling shows a dramatic uptick in voters searching for convenience, voting at a time that better suits them and also aiming to avoid lengthy cues on election day.

There is of course another solution, a far better solution that means tonight, the results would be known already, every single one of them. It’s 2019 and Australia doesn’t have electronic voting.

In NSW state elections, they are offering electronic voting through the iVote system, but have some stringent conditions on who gets to use it.

I get it, there’s obviously a massive concern that a digital system would be hacked to manipulate the outcome of the election. When those elected have control of a 2 Trillion dollar economy, it’s absolutely critical the implementation of any kind of electronic voting is secured.

When I can submit my taxes online, when you can interact digitally with Centerlink and other MyGov entities securely, it seems crazy that we can’t work out way through the technical challenges to make this happen.

Internationally there’s been electronic voting trials, many of those have had issues and as a nation that prides themselves on innovation, that seems like the perfect thing we could solve and sell to the world.

Electronic voting from a laptop, or better yet, a mobile phone, would deliver the convenience many are after, take seconds and votes could be counted instantly. Even today people were still being marketed to, despite having already voted. As people vote electronically they could be removed from the list and therefore achieve an overall saving for all parties.

While we’re now 3 years out from the next federal election, it seems like the perfect time to embark on the journey towards having electronic voting in Australia across all 3 tiers of Government.

Naturally, people will point to other Government internet failures like Census and recently Naplan as examples of why this isn’t possible. What’s important to understand is the technology stack that powers each one of these systems.

Often each Government department attempts to build their own highly available, redundant, scale-able solution for big spikes in traffic. Instead the model I’d suggest is that the Government department that understands these challenges and has proven runs on the board, should be tasked with the responsibility.

The AEC should then outsource the vote to the Gov department. The actual voting machines and voting software solution should be open source and evaluated in public as to the resilience to attacks. Only then could the country have confidence in the system and with a successful testing regime, it should be given a chance to succeed in a real election.

Australia is up to a big challenge like this, we just need the ambition and the budget to go after it.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwright
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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