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Victorian Electoral Commission looks to thin clients to slash costs

Victorian Electoral Commission looks to thin clients to slash costs

Prime Minister sets date for federal election

The VEC also established over 54 Elections Offices (EO) around the state for approximately three months to handle nominations, information to the public and enrolment queries prior to the big day. Electronic Voting was also trialled at six E-centres in and around Melbourne.

"The problem for VEC in running the remote office locations, in particular the EVC's has been the complexity and cost of renting PCs for such short periods," Joshi said.

"We have to make sure all PCs are standardised which is impossible with rented gear."

For example, in preparation for state election 2002, Joshi said the commission rented more than 400 notebooks in each centre or EVC, where a voter was marked off teh roll and the notebook was taken back to head office to extract and transfer updates to the central database.

"It was a complex operation to setup 400 identical laptops and manage information extraction to update the central database. It also opened the possibility of fraudulent multiple voting," Joshi added.

"In 2005 we trialled Citrix software using council provided desktops with limited bandwidth to facilitate the nomination process from council premises.

"This enabled us to run standard applications at each site directly connected to our central servers. However, it soon became apparent that using infrastructure provided by others was a very expensive and unmanageable proposition."

The trial with Citrix showed that thin client technology was definitely the way to go for the VEC; however the use of notebooks or third party infrastructure was not.

"Firstly using only notebooks at the early voting centres was not feasible either as a stand alone solution or connected to the head office using Citrix," he said.

"In 2002, at a stand alone EVC using a notebook we would mark the voter off the roll at the booth and then back at head office we would physically merge databases and recheck the voter against the master roll.

"This was not necessary when using Citrix as we could use one step to mark off and check back with the master database, so marking that person off at all voting stations in real time, eliminating potential administrative overhead and voting fraud."

Joshi said no two notebooks are the same and renting 400 at a time was expensive.

Different disk, motherboards and software configurations made a Standard Operating Environment (SOE) impossible.

"Even if we had purchased the notebooks at one time, it would not have taken long for them to be out of synch," he added.

Soon after the Wyse trial, VEC ordered 100 units for the November 2006 state election.

"The VEC decided to purchase the Wyse thin client terminals outright rather than rent as they wanted a standard that could be used in all future state and local government elections. They also found that the outright purchase was in the long run, more cost effective than renting notebooks due to the savings in running costs," Joshi said.

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