NSW to adopt e-voting

iVote to roll out for the next state election

The NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) is to implement an electronic voting system, iVote, for the next State Government election due in early 2011.

iVote will allow blind, vision impaired, and disabled voters, as well as those living in remote areas, to cast a secret and unassisted vote from home and other locations using an interactive voice recognition-based phone number or an Internet-enabled PC.

Once lodged, the votes will be printed out in a central location as completed ballot papers and will then be included in the manual count processes carried out by the NSWEC. The system will also utilise two-factor authentication and will include automatic integrity measures, proper provision for observers, and the provision of voter-verifiable inclusion features to help address issues with fraud.

The NSWEC is expecting up to 8,340 telephone and up to 6,660 Internet voters will use the iVote system for the 2011 election.

Speaking at the introduction of the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Amendment Bill 2010 on 19 March, NSW Parliamentary Secretary Mathew Morris said prior attempts at addressing voting for vision impaired and blind voters had been costly and unsuccessful.

“Electronic voting was trialled by the Commonwealth at the 2007 Federal election at a cost of over $2,500 per vote,” he said. “However, the Commonwealth Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters subsequently recommended that e-voting trials be discontinued due to high costs and low rates of participation."

According to Morris, the use of Braille-based ballot papers for the 2008 local government elections was ended up costing $24,862, or $478 per vote cast.

Preliminary work done by the NSWEC had indicated that a more promising option would be the use of Internet voting, or i-Voting, Morris said.

“Internet voting would involve voters using a personal computer with assistive features in their home or other place to cast their vote over a secure Internet connection,” he said. “The New South Wales Electoral Commission's research indicates that i-Voting would be significantly cheaper to establish than e-voting.

Internet voting also has the potential, in the future, to be used for the benefit of other groups, such as disabled people, people in rural and remote electorates, illiterate people and people with poor English language skills, at a minimal additional cost, Morris said.

“Eventually i-Voting may also provide a means by which overseas voters can participate in State elections,” he said. “Internet voting has been used successfully at public elections in several countries, including the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland and Spain. The Government is keen to make i-Voting available for New South Wales elections.”

In March, the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) said it was looking to develop a new electronic voting system for the next State election, due on 27 November. The system under consideration will likely use about 102 touchscreen-based kiosks deployed to mobile and stationary Early Voting Centre sites around Victoria and the United Kingdom.

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