Australian voters could soon use pens to vote at federal elections, as part of a plan to replace traditional ballot box pencils. Since 1902, electoral laws have required ballot boxes to be “furnished with a pencil for the use of voters”, but in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry the Australian Electoral Commission has asked to be given the option of voters using pens. The plans comes amid moves to replace pencils for voting in state and overseas elections, although Australians have always had the right to bring their own pen on election day. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers has asked the inquiry, which is reviewing the July 2 federal election, to recommend the change to section 206 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as technology for counting votes continues to improve.
“Pens may assist with processes to electronically capture marks from ballot papers, as per the new Senate [ballot] scanning process,” the submission said.
“The AEC should have the flexibility to provide pens or pencils as the means to vote.”
Pencils have long been considered cheaper and easier for election authorities around the world, with longer shelf life in warmer climates where pens can dry out between elections.