Mayor Len Brown wants the Government to rethink its ban on Auckland taking part in the online voting trial at the 2016 local body elections. Auckland has been excluded at this stage because, with 1,050,000 electors, the bureaucrats are worried about their ability “to mitigate any risk”. Auckland Council sees online voting as part of its campaign to lift voter turnout to “at least” the 2013 national average of around 40 per cent at next year’s poll. In 2013, only 34 per cent of enrolled Auckland voters bothered. … In the aftermath of the 2013 low turnout, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain announced plans to fast-track trials of online voting. Last December, the Cabinet agreed to a limited number of local authorities trialling it in 2016. But not Auckland. Their fears about risk seem well placed.
Last November, an Australian federal parliament inquiry into electronic voting options rejected the idea. Chairman and MP Tony Smith said that after hearing from a range of experts and surveying the international electoral landscape, “it is clear to me that Australia is not in a position to introduce any large scale system of electronic voting in the near future without catastrophically compromising our electoral integrity”.
Online voting was “highly vulnerable to hacking … the academic experts swear they can, and have proved they can, hack such systems”. This week there was proof of that. Two computer scientists from the Universities of Melbourne and Michigan revealed “a major security hole” allowing a hacker “to read and manipulate votes” in New South Wales’ “iVote system” being used in this weekend’s state election. It’s an online system available to out-of-state voters, and certain disabled groups, expected to handle up to 250,000 votes.
The NSW electoral commission closed the site for several hours to “patch” this back door, but the experts Vanessa Teague and Alex Halderman warn it remains vulnerable.