Record numbers of NSW voters used the state electoral commission’s e-voting system, iVote, to cast their ballot in the recent by-election for the seat of Clarence. The number of voters who employed iVote in the electorate more than doubled compared to the March state election.
The iVote system was established by the NSW Electoral Commission’s (NSWEC) for blind, vision-impaired and disabled voters, as well as those living in remote areas and out of state on the day. It was first slated in June 2010 and used in the state election earlier, with more than triple the number of expected voters casting an e-ballot with the system.
iVote enables voters to cast a secret and unassisted ballot from home and other locations using an interactive voice recognition-based phone system or an Internet-enabled PC. Once lodged, the votes are printed out in a central location as completed ballot papers and then included in the manual count processes carried out by the NSWEC. The system also utilises two-factor authentication and includes automatic integrity measures, proper provision for observers, and the provision of voter-verifiable inclusion features to help address issues with fraud.
NSWEC CIO, Ian Brightwell, told Computerworld Australia the number of voters using the system in the by-election was 1335, up from 575 users in the same electorate during the March election.
The system, developed by the commission with election-services company Everyone Counts, was used primarily by out-of-state voters. However, Brightwell said that most of the people who used iVote in both the by-election and state election were blind or vision impaired.
“Everyone Counts again managed the technology and assisted the NSWEC in the smooth running of iVote for the Clarence by election,” Brightwell said. “The iVote process again delivered a well-received voting outcome at an acceptable cost with usage higher than we had hoped.”
According to Brightwell, the commission was notified that iVote could be used for the by-election following the resignation of the member, but still left the organisation “stymied” for time as there was only two months to prepare and plan.
“I think the main challenge is that we still have to bring a team of people together and at this stage we still don’t have an ingrained process within the organisation; it’s almost project to project,” he said.
“The challenge is to get it so it is an ingrained process that we have the resources ready and can use them when events like this come along.
“We kicked ourselves afterwards as we realised including the out of state voters was probably overdoing it for a by-election… we really should have set out a district so we could have had an exception clause.”
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