Here we are, days after a Federal election,
and we still don’t know the result. The Australian Electoral Commission says
that it could be a month before a result is known. Some seats that have
candidates winning by a large margin have been declared but other seats that
are tight will continue to be counted until the last vote before the inevitable
recount is requested.

With the modern world of technology we live
in, I can’t help but wonder why it has to be like this. Surely electronic
voting would be a much more efficient method of voting. It would save time and
money and deliver a result almost instantaneously – which is difficult in our
current manual system with our preferential voting systems. I know that the
last Council elections in NSW used a process whereby all of the voting slips
that residents completed at polling booths were bundled up and sent off to a
processing centre to be keyed into a computer to then have the computer compile
the results.

That double-handling seems like a waste of
time and money.

People are sensitive about their finances and
their health but the latest reports from the ABS show that 72 per cent of
Australians use the Internet to do their banking and, now that the government
is offering the facilities, many people are using the Internet to lodge
Medicare claims and manage Centrelink benefits. If people are comfortable
undertaking their activities via the Internet, lodging an electronic vote would
not be a step too far.

To ensure residents were comfortable with the
process, surely an initial system could still have polling locations with
computers and paper voting slips. You could walk in, vote electronically and
fill in the paper voting slip. Better still, as soon as you voted
electronically and were happy with the entries, a paper slip could print out your
vote that you then accepted and placed in the voting box. Any questions over
the accuracy of the electronic results would trigger a system whereby the paper
votes were then counted to compare against the electronic results. This process
would still see polling booths setup across the country and, as an added bonus,
if a person voted informally at the booth, a warning could be given to let the
person know their vote was not going to count. Some people deliberately vote
informally but more informal votes are accidental.

Once this process was accepted, the next
logical step would be to vote from the comfort of your home. Not only would
this be more convenient for residents and save time and money, but imagine all
the trees saved by not having voting papers handed out at polling booths.

Mathew Dickerson

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