A leading expert in electronic voting says proposals for an overhaul of Australian elections could be slowed by Tuesday’s census debacle, calling for a parliamentary committee to carefully consider security, verification and capacity as part of any new consideration. Former NSW Electoral Commission director of information and technology Ian Brightwell said the Australian Electoral Commission would have to be prepared to allow significantly increased external scrutiny of its processes and systems if it follows calls by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for further moves towards electronic voting at federal elections. Responsible for the implementation of the NSW iVote electronic system, used in the 2011 and 2015 state elections, Mr Brightwell has worked for two decades in management of technology in election processes. He said the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ mishandling of the census would be a lesson for the election authorities and politicians, but that public education was needed to build confidence in electronic systems before more people could vote using computers.
“If we’ve got very large chunks of infrastructure doing a very big public task, I don’t think you can just leave the agency as the sole arbiter of what’s going on,” he said. “You need to have scrutiny of sorts applied independently.”
Mr Brightwell said the ABS had moved too quickly from paper-based census collection to large-scale online systems. “We are yet to have the proper debate. I don’t think the debate has an awful lot of policy gravity behind it just yet,” he said.