The government of Australia, currently in the throes a general election, is toying with the idea of automated polling for the next election, an Australian Electoral Commission official has told FutureGov. Meanwhile Indonesia has revealed plans to introduce electronic voting in time for the country’s next presidential election in 2014.
While electronic voting is not possible under the current legislation in Australia, other forms of automation are under discussion, said Michael Cuddihy, Director, Project Management Office, Strategic Capability Branch, AEC.
More than 70 per cent of the AEC’s budget goes on maintaining the voter register, and automation could significantly reduce this cost, Cuddihy noted.
“The AEC anticipates that by enhancing its electronic services such as online enrolment, some of the barriers to citizens maintaining a current enrolment will be removed, and the numbers falling off the roll as the result of people moving address will be decreased,” he said.
New technologies allow for online entry and transmission of enrolment application details via ‘smart forms’ hosted on the Australia.gov.au portal to the AEC. Recent federal legislative changes allow electors to apply for a change of enrolment address through the portal without the need for a follow-up paper enrolment form and personal signature.
E-voting is unlikely in Australia in the short term, although it was trialed with select groups in the 2007 elections. Defence personnel could use a unique PIN access to vote through a secure intranet, and the visually impaired could try electronically assisted voting.
However, a report by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters recommended that the trials be discontinued for the 2010 election, citing a low take up and a high cost for voter.
Defence personnel have returned to a paper-based system for the current election but legislation was passed recently to allow e-voting for the visually impaired.
“Concerns about the security of e-voting systems might be manageable through the development of appropriate systems, including authentification in the future,” Cuddihy said. “But that future is not here yet in the federal context.”
He added: “The paper ballot is a familiar and comfortable way of voting for many Australians. Use of technology in these ways will need to be offered in a way that ensures that public trust in the delivery of such services is maintained.”
Indonesia to vote electronic
Indonesia is set to introduce e-voting in time for the next presidential election in 2014. Syamsul Bahri, Member, Indonesia’s General Election Commission (KPU), told FutureGov that the efficiencies and cost-savings to be made electronic balloting, vote counting and audit trailing make for a compelling argument for automated polls.
“We think that e-voting is the way to go for Indonesia. Automation will simplify and quicken the process of holding elections in a country with such a huge population and diverse topography. It will also make the process more transparent, secure and save on printing and logistical costs,” he said.
Elections automation in Indonesia will not get the go ahead until 2014, the year of the next presidential race – as long as the project receives sufficient investment. “The government must be financially prepared. Automation will require a huge investment,” he noted.
Legislative changes, the introduction of new regulations for e-voting as well as a public education programme are currently under review, Syamsul noted. Indonesia will follow the Philippines as the second country to embrace electronic voting in Southeast Asia.
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