An interim report of a parliamentary committee tasked with examining the 2013 Senate ballot in Western Australia has concluded that the nation is not yet ready for the widespread use of e-voting in federal elections. In December last year the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters was given the job of examining the fiasco which saw Western Australian voters return to the poll after ballots were lost in the state’s tightly contested 2013 Senate race. “Ultimately, the committee has concluded that electronic voting can’t be introduced in the near future without high costs and unacceptable security risks,” the chair of committee, Liberal MP Tony Smith, said in a statement. “The Committee believes that it is likely that technology will evolve to the point that it will be possible to vote electronically in federal elections,” the interim report states. “At that stage the question for a future Parliament, and the voting public, will be whether the convenience of electronic voting outweighs the risks to the sanctity of the ballot. “The view of this Committee is that the answer to this question at this time is that no, it does not.”
Concerns with a shift to electronic voting included the security and transparency of the system, the cost of delivering a secure electronic voting system, and the impact of e-voting on maintaining a secret ballot and on voter behaviour.
Despite the bungling of the WA ballot and the cost of holding a second ballot, the impact of an insufficiently secured electronic voting system could be significantly worse, the report argues.
“[T]he ‘weak point’ in a paper-based voting system, resulting in a lost box of ballot papers, may lead to an unverifiable close result (such as in WA): but one ‘weak point’ in a wide-ranging electronic voting system has the potential to expose an entire election’s vote data to manipulation, corruption or attack, undermining the parliamentary system supported by the electoral process,” it states.