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Electoral commission expands NSW e-voting project

Electoral commission expands NSW e-voting project

The project will now reach in excess of the originally projected 15,000 voters

The NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) has drastically expanded the reach of its e-voting project, iVote, which is now predicted to exceed initial expectations of 15,000 users on polling day, 26 March.

The project, first slated in June last year, will now allow blind, vision-impaired and disabled voters, as well as those living in remote areas and those out of the state on the day, to cast a secret and unassisted vote from home or in other locations using an interactive voice recognition by phone or through the internet.

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 avoid potential fraud.

NSWEC CIO, Ian Brightwell, told Computerworld Australia the project was on a “very demanding” schedule, with implementation of the trial system recently completed. The full system will be made available to the public on 17 February.

“We also have just completed user acceptance testing of the registration system,” Brightwell said.

The commission is yet to decide whether it will limit the number of voters who can apply for an iVote should the system become over-subscribed.

“The testing and audit verification of the voting system is a very important part of the project which is currently underway. This process involves normal acceptance and load testing plus intense security and penetration testing of both the system and the data centre environments. This should be completed in early March, seven days prior to the commencement of voting on the 14 March.”

According to Brightwell, the establishment of two data centres is nearing completion although delays from telco suppliers over the Christmas period have “hampered” this aspect of the project. Delivery of both data centres is still expected to be on schedule to support the trial system in mid-February.

In January, the commission implemented a demonstration system for internal trials and demonstrations, while the next month will involve the implementation and completion of a number of key systems for the project, including the trial system, the full production system, two data centres, a registration system and a specialised call centre.

The system will start taking registrations on the 17 February, says Brightwell, with votes to be accepted into the system between 14-25 March. After 6pm on 26 March, the system’s ballot box will be opened and ballot papers will be printed, while the final count of ballots will occur in the distributed counting centres with all other ballot papers.

Brightwell said the NSWEC paid close attention to the Victorian Electoral Commission’s recently implemented e-voting system, in addition to the Australian Electoral Commission’s 2007 project while implementing the state's own version.

“The NSWEC views the implementation of technology such as iVote as an evolutionary process,” he said. “It is only by watching and learning from the experiences of others that we are where we are today and doing the project we are doing today.”

As reported by Computerworld Australia, the Queensland Electoral Commission announced it is to research its own technology to assist the blind and vision-impaired vote, using $960,000 to fund research into the technology in an effort to “provide a framework” for blind and vision impaired voters to cast a secret vote electronically.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags e-votingNSW Electoral CommissionNSW state elections 2011

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