Any voter who thinks that online voting and digital counting of elections are fireproof should take note of the results of the 2012 local council elections in NSW. Following tightly-fought contests for local government positions in the NSW municipality of Griffith, researchers at the computer science departments of Australian National University and Melbourne University identified a flaw in the program code for counting the election that probably cost one candidate a seat on the local council. The flaw, which was later confirmed by the NSW Electoral Commissioner, was discovered more than three months after the council vote was declared. According to ANU’s Professor Rajeev Gore, scientific testing of the Griffith election data found that there was a 91 per cent chance that the losing candidate, Rina Mercuri, would have won if the computer error had not occurred. The likely counting errors cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of the Griffith election.
Even though the commission acknowledged an error had occurred, Ms Mercuri could not appeal the outcome because the academics did not complete their study before the three-month deadline for lodging disputed returns had elapsed.
Professor Gore said the NSW counting algorithm was unusual compared to others used in Australia. “When you re-run the program on the same ballots there was a chance it may generate different results,” he said.
In the lead-up to the 2015 NSW state election, researchers at Melbourne University and the University of Michigan also tested features of the iVote system and found that it was vulnerable to hackers.