The Australian Electoral Commission has still not “finalised” its plan for counting more than 12 million Senate ballots, with a little more than three weeks to polling day. The commission looks likely to turn to scanning machines for the first time to help it cope with a counting task massively expanded by the government’s changes to upper house voting. But the AEC insists it will have all the votes and preferences finalised by the mandated August 8 deadline. The commission is confronted with the task of entering up to 12 million ballots onto its system, up from about 500,000 under the old voting rules, and one electoral expert says it is unsurprising the AEC is battling to cope after the changes were rushed through by the government.
The commission says the Senate count is “more complex”, with voters now able to express their preferences either above or below the line on the ballot paper and that scanning technology, using machines to count or check the vote, could be used for the first time.
The changes were introduced in March in an effort to end preference-swap deals getting micro-parties elected with tiny shares of the vote.
Rather than the old system of placing a “1” above the line on Senate ballot papers or numbering every box below the line, voters will number “1” to “6” above the line in order of their preferences on July 2.