it comes to personal issues, surveys show that people are extremely sensitive
about their finances and their health records being exposed to the public. There
was an outrage in April this year when medical files belonging to patients from
a Melbourne GP clinic were found dumped in a park. Several years ago doctors in
Massachusetts were fined US$140,000 for disposing medical records at the local
dump. Generally, it would seem that people are less concerned about people
knowing about their finances but more concerned about them gaining access to
their finances.

this background, it is significant to note that 72 per cent of Australians use
the Internet to perform their banking and, now that the government is offering
electronic facilities, increasing numbers are using the Internet to lodge
Medicare claims and manage Centrelink benefits.

most of us accept the electronic world gives us convenience and more control,
there is one glaring omission from the Australian landscape. There are twenty
countries in the world where they have taken the step forward – including
diverse areas such as India; Kazakhstan; UAE; Germany; US and Estonia. I am
talking about electronic voting. These countries don’t just have electronic
voting but Internet voting. It is almost embarrassing to me when I speak with
my overseas family and friends that, a week after the latest Federal election,
we don’t have a winner.

Australia we have an old-fashioned idea that lining up in long queues and
putting a mark on a piece of paper and then waiting for some indefinite length
of time is a better method of voting than electronic voting. In the 2010 Brazilian
Presidential election, more than 135 million voters saw a result 75 minutes
after voting closed because they used electronic voting. As far back as 2004,
India used EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) to allow 380 million voters to
cast their ballots. Estonia had Internet voting back as far as 2005.

are significant advantages in electronic voting – in both time and money. The
only argument I have heard against electronic or Internet voting (there is a
significant difference) is in relation to the potential for security breaches.
That is a classic argument often used against technology along the FUD argument
that many politicians rely on in campaigns. Create Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt
and people will run away. Before I look at the security issues in electronic
banking, we should examine the current system.

I turned up to vote on Saturday, my name was marked off in a big paper book. The
Parkes electorate had 89 locations on polling day with 89 paper books – not to
mention pre-polling – where I could cast my vote. There is absolutely no way
that the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) could stop me from visiting all
89 booths to cast my vote. I grant that in such a large electorate the speed of
transport may limit my ability to vote but there are other electorates much
smaller in geographical size. You may not think that 89 votes would make much
of a difference but if you have a small group of dedicated supporters, suddenly
89 can turn into 890 or 8,900. Sure, there is a law that deals with voting more
than once. Under Section 339(1A) there is potentially a penalty of 10 penalty
units which equates to $1,700. With no CCTV present at polling booths, you
could mount an argument that someone else impersonated you at the polling booth
or just pay the $1,700 fine. The 1999 State election in Dubbo was won by 14
votes so it is easy to see how multiple voting could influence the outcome of
an election. The major issue here is that if a person was found to have voted
multiple times, the election is not declared invalid.

there is the issue of ballot papers. There was the issue in Western Australia
in 2013 when 1,400 ballot papers simply disappeared. When an election is held,
we are all relying on physical pieces of paper in cardboard boxes across
multiple booths to then be brought together in one spot and counted to decide
an outcome. This is far from a secure system.

another look at the integrity of electronic voting. With so many people
prepared to perform banking and medical transactions over the Internet, the
community is generally trusting of the electronic security in these cases.
Before we go to that step though, I would propose an initial step. Many
countries have been using EVMs for over a decade. If security is a large
concern, I would propose an introductory system whereby polling booths had EVMs
and paper combined. A voter would vote on a touch screen EVM and, when satisfied
with their vote, a paper slip would be produced that they would place a mark on
and place in the ballot box. The results would be known immediately after the
election and, if there were any doubts about the veracity of the data, a
candidate could request a physical count of the paper votes. With informal
votes over the 5 per cent mark, a warning could be given by the EVM if a ballot
paper was not completed correctly. In my opinion, it would only take a couple
of elections and the public would see that the new system was more secure than
the old paper system and results would be delivered within minutes of the close
of polling booths.

really look forward to the subsequent step – which is sitting at home and
voting over the Internet. I can research the candidates fully and have
hyperlinks on the voting site to take me to more information on each candidate.
I can be relaxed and think about my vote carefully. There are numerous ways to
ensure I only vote once and, the most important aspect is that I don’t have to
risk my life by walking through a tunnel of people trying to force pieces of
paper into my hands as I enter the polling booth!

Mathew Dickerson

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