Turnbull, Shorten back electronic voting

By Jonathan Nally
Monday, 11 July, 2016

Turnbull, Shorten back electronic voting

Both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten have publicly endorsed the concept of electronic voting, after an eight-day wait to find out the result of the 2 July election.

On Sunday, Turnbull said that he had “been an advocate of electronic voting for a long time”, adding that “yes, this is something we must look at”.

Shorten said, “We’re a grown-up democracy; it shouldn’t be taking eight days to find out who’s won and who’s lost.

“We can’t afford to have our nation drift for eight days after an election,” he added. “I take nothing away from the professionalism of the Australian Electoral Commission, but it’s the 21st century.”

Several jurisdictions successfully operate an electronic voting system, including in Australia.

The collection of information during a national census is similar in many ways to an election, with the e-Census proving very popular in Australia in 2011. Almost three million households used e-Census that year.

So how difficult would it be to implement an electronic voting system in Australia?

“I feel pretty much like everyone else in Australia, and that is [that] it’s crazy that we’re in 2016 and we’re still required to go and do these things manually,” said Brad Newton, vice president, ANZ, for DocuSign.

“The technology is certainly there to facilitate and enable” electronic voting, said Newton. “There’s a whole bunch of benefits which, interestingly enough, the government recognises through a lot of its policy papers and digital transformation initiatives underway. They just need to move a lot faster.

“I think this is a perfect example of where technology could deliver a whole bunch of benefits outside of just a speedier result.

“If you look at what it is, it’s a transaction process,” Newton added. “Any transaction process can be digitised. What the government itself is saying is that it is 42 times cheaper for the government to do a transaction electronically than face to face.

“And here we are, forcing the electorate to go out and do a transaction face to face on a paper-based process.

“We’ve heard a number of excuses, such as security,” said Newton. “I would say an electronic process in all cases would enhance the level of security, because you can add secondary and tertiary levels of authentication.”

So how long would it take to implement an electronic voting system?

“It would really depend on what level of authentication the government would like to do,” said Newton.

“We could use your e-Gov account, having it sitting behind the [election] website, [and] we could be up and running in a day.”

Image courtesy AEC.

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