Home Government Government Tech Policy Australia rejects electronic voting - are US elections rigged?

Australia rejects electronic voting - are US elections rigged?

Electronic voting is subject to ‘high costs and unacceptable security risks’, which clearly ameans hacking, according to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and its 77 page report entitled the ‘Interim report on the inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 Federal Election’.

The Electoral Matters Committee has released its second interim report assessing the options for electronic voting and electronic support for voting in federal elections.

And… it looks like the Committee has given electronic voting the equivalent of the non-existent Facebook ’thumbs down’ dislike button, suggesting it is too easily hacked at a price that’s simply too high - presumably both in democratic and financial terms.

The full report can be downloaded here (PDF link), with the report’s home page with sections separately downloadable here.

Even so, the report says that it makes ‘several recommendations to strengthen electronic support for elections’, with Committee Chair the Hon Tony Smith MP saying that “the Committee received evidence during the inquiry arguing that electronic voting was the solution to the errors of the 2013 federal election”.

“The Committee also decided to investigate the issue by conducting public hearings and briefings involving subject matter experts.”

It turns out that the Committee’s investigation of electronic voting ‘revealed an interplay of security, secrecy, verifiability and cost that complicates electronic voting systems.’

In some sense this should be no surprise, given the voting scandals during the Bush era in the US, with ‘Diebold’ machines that were very similar to modern ATM cash machines, but extraordinarily suspiciously without offering a verifiable paper trail - something that defies belief but did happen in the land of the brave and the home of the not-so-free anymore, the U.S.A.

Australians, it seems, aren’t so easily fooled, with Mr Smith saying that: “ultimately, the Committee has concluded that electronic voting can’t be introduced in the near future without high costs and unacceptable security risks”.

“The Committee has instead recommended careful steps to progress electronic support mechanisms for voting. Any use of technology in the electoral process needs to have the principle of the sanctity of the ballot at its core”, Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith was quoted in the media stating that: “It is clear to me that Australia is not in a position to introduce any large-scale system of electronic voting in the near future without catastrophically compromising our electoral integrity.”

And here’s where we say, No Sugar, Sherlocks of the electronic voting proponent community.

Of course, paper based ballots can be falsified and tampered with, too, but at least there is some form of paper trail to search for - even though the current system the 'gamification' of the senate elections that gave us even more Senate clowns that usual, with even lower votes to get in than ever before. 

And of course, when things are electronic, hackers seem to get into the most secure of systems at will - whether rogue national hackers or foreign nation states trying to electronically manipulate elections.

Clearly, Australia is relatively small fry compared to the super powers of the world, but at least some semblance of sanity has prevailed down under in the lucky country.

Long may it continue. And may your vote stay safe - even if we have to wonder whether the behaviour of both parties leads us all to sometimes question what our votes are worth, and whether the saying that ‘Politics is Hollywood for ugly people’ means that it’s all just a fiction anyway.

How do I get the red pill so I can jack myself out of this Matrix? :-) :-/ :-!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.