House of Representatives MPs to vote electronically

In-chamber voting system to be rolled out by 2019

Members of parliament’s lower house will be able to vote electronically, the government announced today.

The government said that a form of electronic voting will be operational for the House of Representatives in 2019.

“The implementation of electronic voting will reduce significantly the time required for each vote in the chamber,” leader of the House of Representatives Christopher Pyne said.

“Voting outcomes will be transparent, accurate, and known immediately freeing up more time for important parliamentary business to be conducted each day the House sits.

“Electronic voting will also provide an electronic solution for recording division voting and improve online accessibility to division process and results.”

The government’s announcement didn’t reveal any details of how the system would work, but referenced a 2016 report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Procedure titled Division Required?

That report recommended electronic voting, provided that voting still takes place in the chamber and that the practice of MPs moving to the right or left of the chair during divisions be retained.

Advantages of moving to electronic voting could include saving time, making results available immediately, reducing work performed by tellers and clerks, and providing more statistical information on voting results.

However, the report said that if MPs did not undertake the traditional division — with ayes passing to the right of the chair and noes to the left — it may not be clear to an observer how a particular MP was voting.

“Further, it would be more difficult for Members to know which way their party was voting on a particular question,” the report added.

Electronic voting would also eliminate any opportunity for a “cooling off” period during proceedings.

An additional issue would be risks “to the integrity of the vote” — for example one MP voting on behalf of another. The government said that the Department of Parliamentary Services would shortly issue a call for tenders for the project.

The report also recommended investigating the potential use of a swipe or touch card, or some form of electronic token, to allow MPs to vote from any seat to the left or right of the chair.

Other options raised during the inquiry included voting from an app installed on MPs’ mobile devices, using biometric systems (such as facial recognition) to identify an MP, portable voting kiosks, standalone portable devices and in-place voting panels attached to MPs’ desks.

Both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten have expressed an interest in moving to eVoting for federal elections.

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