The government has rejected a Senate demand to disclose the Australian Electoral Commission’s secret computer code used to electronically count Senate preference votes. The motion, passed by the Senate last week, was prompted by the AEC’s refusal to comply with a freedom of information request made by digital activist Michael Cordover. He wanted to scrutinise the source code for the EasyCount application, but the AEC’s chief legal officer Paul Pirani instead declared him “vexatious”. The Senate motion, introduced by Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, called on Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson to table the source code, as well as correspondence and documents relevant to the decision to have Mr Cordover declared a “vexatious” applicant and the assertion he “colluded” with another activist to “harrass” the AEC. … Mr Ronaldson said the government would not table any documents or correspondence relating to Mr Cordover’s FOI request, because the matter would soon appear before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He also refused to publish the source code for the Senate counting system.
“I am advised that publication of the software could leave the voting system open to hacking or manipulation,” Mr Ronaldson said.
“The AEC classifies the relevant software as commercial-in-confidence, as it also underpins the industrial and fee-for-service election counting systems.”
Mr Cordover said the government was making “excuses for excuses’ sake”.
“I think the response they’ve given to the Senate is at best ignorant and at worst misleading,” Mr Cordover said.
“The idea that [disclosing the source code] could expose the software to manipulation or hacking is just not consistent with what they’ve said previously … The software is operated on a stand-alone computer, not connected to the internet.”