Australia: Electoral Commission to close 1 in 10 polling booths | The Australian

The Australian Electoral Commission will abolish 730 polling booths — about one in 10 — at the next federal election, partly due to the rapid growth in early voting, which has more than doubled since 2007. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers revealed to The Australian that he would scrap 253 polling places across NSW, 197 in Victoria, 133 in Queensland, 51 in South Australia, 44 in Western Australia, 38 in Tasmania, 10 in the ACT and four in the Northern Territory. Mr Rogers said the decision to close 730 of the 7697 polling booths used at the last election had come after an audit to make better use of staff and resources and also because the number of votes cast before election day has risen from 1.1 million in 2007 to 2.5 million in 2013.

Australia: Electoral Commission warned over failure to enrol 1.2m voters | The Guardian

Australia’s auditor general has warned the Australian Electoral Commission it failed to take “meaningful action” and follow a series of recommendations to more securely count votes in the lead-up to the 2013 election. On Wednesday the Australian National Audit Office released its third follow-up audit of the AEC after the 2013 federal election, in which 1,370 Western Australian Senate ballot papers were lost. The Senate election was required to be held again after a high court challenge and the AEC faced heavy criticism at the time. The latest audit found two years on the AEC has still not established procedures to fix a series of failings. The audit disclosed there are now 1.2 million Australians who are eligible to vote but have not been enrolled, and raised concerns over the AEC’s response to the electoral gaps. The report said “some useful work had been undertaken” to manage the electoral role, but there were “significant gaps in implementation action”.

Australia: Sex party to ‘vigorously’ appeal against Electoral Commission deregistration | The Guardian

The Australian Sex party will appeal against a decision by Australian Electoral Commission to deregister the party because it does not have enough members. The decision comes just months after the Victorian branch of the party won its first seat in the state’s upper house in November. The co-founder, Robbie Swan, said in a statement that the party would “vigorously” appeal against the decision which means the party will not be able to put its name on ballot papers at federal elections or receive commonwealth funding available to registered parties.

Australia: Votes gone walkabout after Australian election voting flaw | SC Magazine UK

As many as 66,000 votes in the New South Wales state election 2015 could have been tampered with. The election was held on  28 March 2015 and is now closed. Voters used the iVote system which is described by its makers as “private, secure and verifiable” in its operation. Further, the Australian Electoral Commission insists that all Internet votes are and were “fully encrypted and safeguarded” at this time. The iVote system is a form of voting where eligible voters can vote over the Internet or telephone as an alternative to voting at a physical polling station. Security is provided using an 8-digit iVote number, a 6-digit PIN and a 12-digit receipt number for each individual. Australia is arguably a perfect test case for electronic voting with its vast distances that prevent some voters from getting to a polling location. A system like this also benefits the disabled and other less mobile voters. However, the system has been derided by non-profit digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), “The problem is that the system was not ready to be one of the biggest online voting experiments in the world.” EFF’s Farbod Faraji says that a FREAK flaw has been discovered in the Australian system by Michigan Computer Science Professor J Alex Halderman and University of Melbourne Research Fellow Vanessa Teague.

Australia: Missing Senate ballot boxes may have fallen off a truck, committee finds | ABC

The nearly 1,400 Senate ballot slips that disappeared in Western Australia during the last federal election may have literally fallen off the back of a truck, says a federal parliamentary committee. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters lambasted the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in its final report into the 2013 federal election, describing the incident as “disastrous”. The inquiry handed down 24 recommendations, including that voters be required to show identification and — for the first time in almost a century — vote using a pen.

Australia: ‘Frankly, we don’t do it very well’: Australia Electoral Commission forced to change over WA poll | Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian Electoral Commission will outsource the storage of millions of used ballot papers, conceding its warehouse security and logistics chain is not up to task. The AEC has been forced to overhaul its processes after bungling the 2013 Senate election in Western Australia in which nearly 1400 voting papers were lost, causing the High Court to order a new poll at a cost of $23 million. Former Australia Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty called the AEC’s handling of the election a “disaster” and the-then electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn later resigned. On Wednesday, new commissioner Tom Rogers told a parliamentary committee that the AEC would “completely outsource” its warehouse and logistics, including the transport of ballot papers to 8000 polling stations. “Frankly, we don’t do it very well,” he told the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

Australia: No voters prosecuted despite 7000-plus cases of suspected voting fraud in the 2013 federal election | Sydney Morning Herald

Not a single person will be prosecuted for multiple voting at the 2013 federal election – even those who admitted to casting more than one ballot paper. Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said he was “disturbed” that of the nearly 8000 cases of suspected voting fraud passed to the Australian Federal Police, not a single case has been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Of the 7743 suspect cases referred to the AFP, just 65 were investigated and not one will progress to conviction. Mr Rogers told a Senate estimates committee that the file passed to the AFP included voters who had actually admitted to voting at more than one polling station and cases where the offence had been denied but there was supporting evidence that they had.

Australia: Electronic vote counting one step closer | Government News

The Australian Electoral Commission appears to be taking tentative steps towards having electronic vote scanning and counting at the next general election. The Commission has called for requests for expressions of interest (REI) for companies to provide advice on ballot paper scanning and counting technology to use in the House of Representatives ballot in the 2016 general election but the technology would not be used widely, instead being run as a pilot project in a handful of polling booths. The REI is at pains to point out: “this is not a request for tender. The AEC intends to initiate a multi-stage procurement process for the required services. “The AEC would appreciate advice from the market regarding the minimum number of tabulators to provide a reasonable (cost effective) pilot.”

Australia: Thousands of Victorians unable to vote because of ‘unsound mind’ | The Age

Thousands of Victorians cannot vote in this year’s state election because they have been deemed to have an “unsound mind”. You won’t find a definition for the term in either the federal Electoral Act or in any of its state and territory counterparts. But since the 2010 election, 7176 people have been removed from the state’s electoral roll for this reason, according to Australian Electoral Commission figures. Anyone who is eligible to vote can object to another person being on the roll if they believe they have an “unsound mind”. There are growing calls for the law around such objections to be scrapped to avoid discrimination. Victorian Electoral Commission spokeswoman, Sue Lang, said she was still receiving requests to remove people’s elderly relatives from the roll – usually people with dementia – days before the election.

Australia: Politicians billing taxpayers twice for election campaign material | The Guardian

Federal MPs and senators are passing on the cost of printing election-related material to the taxpayer in a practice once described as “double dipping” by the auditor general’s office. A Guardian Australia analysis of politicians’ entitlements shows that on average claims for printing and communications materials during an election campaign are twice as high as at other times. Funds are provided separately to parties for election campaigns via the Australian Electoral Commission, so using regular entitlements for campaign material may represent a double use of taxpayers’ funds that benefits incumbent politicians.

New Zealand: Working group nixes drive for online voting in 2016 | ZDNet

A working party has recommended online voting trials be conducted in New Zealand local body elections in 2016, but concluded broad availability is “not feasible” for that election round. The working party, established last September, was a a response to calls from the Justice and Electoral Committee of Parliament, some local authorities, Local Government New Zealand and the New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers to conduct a trial of online voting for local authority elections. “We do not think that broad implementation of an online voting option in the 2016 local elections is feasible.” It was asked to consider the options, costs, and security issues involved in online voting and the feasibility of implementing it for New Zealand’s 2016 local elections. The working group decided a broad roll out is not feasible as the 2016 election will be the first real opportunity to conduct a trial of what could be relatively untested technology.

Australia: AEC is ‘not ready’ for electronic voting |

The Australian Electoral Commission does not currently have the internal capability to test electronic voting at the next federal election, according to its acting chief Tom Rogers. In a hearing of the parliamentary committee investigating electoral matters today, Rogers said he was not confident the AEC had the capacity to roll out such a major reform. “I would be worried by any large-scale trial of electronic voting before the next election,” he told the committee. “We would not have the internal capability now to do that.”

Australia: AEC warns against e-voting trial before next election | ZDNet

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) does not have the internal capabilities to safely carry out an e-voting trial prior to the next federal election, according to the acting Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers. Rogers, who spoke today at a parliamentary committee hearing investigating electoral matters, said that he was not confident the AEC could safely introduce electronic voting. “I’m concerned about our ability to introduce some form of electronic voting, safely,” he said. “We could introduce something, but we may end up back in a WA sort of situation if we’re not careful, in a short space of time. “I would be worried about any form large scale adoption before the next election, even a trial. We would not have the internal ability now to do that. We would have already had to have started that process,” he said. “I’m concerned, as the acting commissioner, about whether I can tell you faithfully that we can implement a safe solution.”

Australia: Electoral Commission proposes electronic vote counting for federal elections | ABC

Future federal elections should use electronic vote counting to improve the accuracy of results, the ACT Electoral Commission has said. A joint parliamentary committee has been considering election methods after almost 1,400 votes went missing in Western Australia during the federal election. The problems led to a fresh Senate poll being held in WA and the resignation of Australian electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn. ACT electoral commissioner Phil Green told the committee there were miscounts in every division in Western Australia. “Hand counting and hand sorting by using humans alone is an error-prone thing,” he said. “I think if you look at the result of the recount in Western Australia you can see that hand counting even a single first preference on a ballot paper is something that human beings aren’t very good at, but computers are very good at it.”

Australia: Government rejects Senate order to disclose Electoral Commission software code | Sydney Morning Herald

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.

Editorials: Government’s voting source code secrecy is dumb and dangerous | ZDNet

Here’s an idea for streamlining our national elections. Once people have voted, how about we scoop up all the ballot papers, put them into a big sack, and hand it to a group of masked strangers? They take the sack away somewhere — somewhere secret, so no-one can interfere with them — and some time later they return and just tell us who won. I reckon it’d be cheaper and a lot less trouble for everyone than all this slow, manual counting in front of scrutineers, right? No? Don’t like it? Well, boys and girls, given that the Australian government is refusing to show us the source code for the Australian Electoral Commissions’s EasyCount software, that’s pretty much exactly how your votes for the Senate are being counted right now. Your Senate votes, the ones where you’ve carefully specified your preferences for dozens of candidates, go into the black box of EasyCount, magic happens, and out pops the result.

Australia: Electoral Commission bucks Senate on voting source code | Computerworld

The Australian Electoral Commission has refused a Senate order to reveal the underlying source code of the EasyCount software used to tabulate votes in upper house elections. A motion moved by Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon on 10 July directed Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson to table the source code as well as correspondence between Ronaldson’s office and the AEC relating to a freedom of information request for the source code. In October, following the fraught outcome of the Senate election in WA, Hobart lawyer Michael Cordover filed a freedom of information application with the AEC requesting the release of the source code and documentation of any data formats used by the software. The AEC rejected the FOI application, citing section 45 of the FOI Act, which exempts “documents that disclose trade secrets”.

Australia: Electoral Commission promises upgraded procedures for re-run WA Senate election | ABC

The Australian Electoral Commission says it has improved its security and procedures to ensure that no votes go missing in Saturday’s re-run of the WA Senate election. The election is being held again after results from last September’s Senate election were declared void when about 1,400 ballots disappeared during a vote re-count. AEC spokesman Phil Diak said the commission had re-examined all of its security procedures in the wake of the vote loss and subsequent inquiries into it by former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty and a joint parliamentary committee.

Australia: Electoral commission failed to heed warnings about ballot paper security | The Guardian

he Australian Electoral Commission failed to adequately respond to warnings about the transport and storage of ballot papers made years before the West Australian Senate debacle. An Australian National Audit Office report into the security of ballots during last year’s federal election is scathing of the AEC, saying it failed to react to recommendations made in 2010. The AEC has been under fire over its botched handling of the poll; the loss of 1370 ballot papers forced a fresh WA Senate vote in April. The 2010 audit by the audit office found the AEC needed to improve the security of ballot papers during transport and storage.

Australia: Dozens to recast vote due to ballot box problem in Western Australia Senate election | ABC

Dozens of people at an aged care facility in Perth will have to vote again in the WA Senate election re-run because of a problem with a ballot box. The latest voting bungle comes despite the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) promising improved security and counting procedures. The election re-run is being held because 1,370 votes were lost in the September poll and the High Court declared the election void. The AEC has now investigated the handling of about 75 ballot papers cast earlier this week at the Merriwa Estate RAAF retirement village in Perth’s northern suburbs.

Editorials: Canada’s attack on democracy sets tone for Australia | Sydney Morning Herald

Australians who value democracy should turn their eyes to Canada to catch a glimpse of what might be heading our way. Two weeks ago, international academics added their names to a call by 160 Canadian experts to stop a piece of legislation being rushed through parliament that aims to radically change electoral processes in Canada. Introduced by the Conservative Party government in Canada, and with a name that would do George Orwell proud, the ‘’Fair Elections Act’’ seeks to insert partisanship and inequality into Canadian electoral procedures in a manner reminiscent of 19th century processes. The proposed act will reduce voting rights, foster partisan bias in election administration and weaken campaign finance laws. Along with Australia, Canada has a reputation for being a world leader in electoral processes, which makes the proposals all the more shocking and internationally significant. Elections Canada – the equivalent of our Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) – is considered a strong and fiercely independent electoral administrator. But, if passed, the proposed act will move the enforcement arm of the agency into the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, a government department. This will diminish the independence of the agency but also, crucially, it means the activities of the commissioner would no longer be reported to parliament.

Australia: Communications Dept seeks electronic voting trial | ZDNet

As the Australian government returns to an honours system that will see new Australian Knights and Dames, the Department of Communications has suggested that there should be a trial of electronic voting in the 2016 election. The proposal came in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry in the 2013 Federal election. The issue of electronic voting was first raised after the election by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a way for dealing with informal votes, but gained even more attention after the Australian Electoral Commission lost 1,375 ballot papers in the WA Senate election, forcing voters in the state to head back to the polls for a second time on April 5. The Department said in its submission that trials of electronic voting in the ACT and New South Wales have been a success, with the ACT system in operation since 2011, built on Linux open source software that is made publicly available prior to the election to improve transparency.

Australia: Uncertainty continues after South Australia poll | The Australian

South Australia’s election outcome remains uncertain as the major parties continue to lobby two key independents amid the likelihood of a hung parliament. It could be the end of the week before the count is finalised with the Australian Electoral Commission only beginning to tally up to 260,000 pre-poll, postal and absentee votes on Tuesday. Independents Bob Such and Geoff Brock have again vowed to take time to decide who they will support, either individually or collectively, if neither of the major parties can secure a majority. With 69 per cent of the vote counted, Labor is on course to win 23 seats in the 47-seat lower house, the Liberals 22, with the independents to hold two. But there remains 10 seats where the margin is less than 1000 votes, suggesting the situation could change quite dramatically.

Australia: Senate vote debacle: Recycling banned at polling centres as AEC introduces reforms | Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian Electoral Commission has ordered a suite of changes prior to the re-run of the WA Senate election, including increased tracking of ballot papers and a ban on recycling at polling centres. Acting Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers told Parliament’s electoral matters committee on Wednesday that the debacle over the loss of 1370 ballots “is certainly the worst period in our history”. Mr Rogers said the AEC had made several changes in response to an investigation by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty and those changes would be in place for the fresh WA Senate election on April 5. Mr Keelty’s investigation identified numerous breakdowns in the handling and storage of ballots and he has said “poor leadership” contributed to the “disastrous result” that has forced Western Australians back to the polls. It has been estimated that the Senate re-vote in WA will cost $20 million.

Australia: West Australian election recount a ‘disaster’: Keelty | Sydney Morning Herald

Former federal police chief Mick Keelty has described the handling of the West Australian Senate election recount as a “disaster”. Parliament’s electoral matters committee is investigating how 1370 ballots went missing in a recount of the 2013 Senate election in WA and measures to ensure it does not happen again. The loss has resulted in a court-ordered re-run of the WA Senate election on April 5, which could affect the Abbott government’s delivery of key election promises. Mr Keelty was hired to find out what went wrong, but was unable to put his finger on one specific fault or criminality. “This was a disaster,” he told the committee in Canberra on Wednesday.

Australia: Two more enquiries to be held into Australian Electoral Commission following lost vote debacle | Sydney Morning Herald

After the humiliation of losing more than 1300 votes and the resignation of top officials, the Australian Electoral Commission faces yet more pressure with the Auditor-General launching a major investigation into the electoral body. Fairfax Media can reveal the national audit office is pursuing two audits of the AEC after the 2013 WA Senate election result was declared void by the High Court. Due in part to the AEC’s loss of the ballot papers, West Australians will vote again on April 5 for a re-run of last year’s election, at a cost of around $20 million. The ballot debacle, which was blamed on “lax supervision” and a “complacent attitude” within the AEC in an investigation by former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty, resulted in the resignation of the AEC’s electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn and state manager Peter Kramer.

Australia: Electoral Commission agrees to refund $2000 nomination fee for botched WA Senate vote | Sydney Morning Herald

Voters in Western Australia will be confronted with the biggest ballot paper they have seen after the Australian Electoral Commission bowed to pressure and agreed to refund nomination fees for minor parties that contested the botched Senate vote in September. A number of grassroots parties had written to the AEC complaining they would be unable to run again if the $2000 deposit they paid per candidate nomination were not returned to be used again for the April 5 election. Most minor political parties paid a minimum $4000 for two candidates to qualify for ”above the line” voting and take part in the preference swap deals that provide their only hope of election.

Australia: Senate election re-run to cost $20 million | Sydney Morning Herald

The re-run of the West Australian senate election will cost taxpayers as much as $20 million, nearly double initial estimates of $10-13 million. And the Griffith by-election that saw Labor’s Terri Butler edge out the LNP’s Bill Glasson to take former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s former seat of Griffith cost taxpayers another $1.194 million. Acting electoral commissioner Tom Rogers told Senate estimates late on Tuesday night that the lower estimates for the statewide by-election had been merely been an early estimate of the cost of heading back to the polls. Mr Rogers said the Australian Electoral Commission was still finalising estimates but the bill could run to about $20 million for taxpayers.

Australia: Federal Police investigating multiple voting | SBS News

Australian Federal Police are investigating numerous instances of voters casting more than one ballot in last September’s election. The Australian Electoral Commission has revealed that almost 2000 people have admitted voting more than once, and some have been referred to the AFP for investigation. And the AEC says almost 19,000 letters have been sent to other electors who had multiple marks recorded beside their names. So far, Federal Police are investigating 128 cases where Australians voted more than once at the 2013 federal election. One person is believed to have voted 15 times. Australian Electoral Commission spokesman Phil Diak says the AEC routinely scrutinises the vote count and works with the Australian Federal Police to investigate cases of multiple vost casting.

Australia: Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn resigns after bungled WA Senate vote | Sydney Morning Herald

The head of the Australian Electoral Commission, Ed Killesteyn, and his most senior colleague in Western Australia have quit in the wake of the state’s bungled Senate election. Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson announced on Friday that Mr Killesteyn had formally tendered his resignation to Governor-General Quentin Bryce. The High Court this week declared last September’s West Australian Senate result void – paving the way for a fresh election in the state – after more than 1300 ballot papers went missing during the counting process. Mr Killesteyn is currently on personal leave and will remain on leave until his resignation takes effect on July 4. Deputy electoral commissioner Tom Rogers will act as commissioner. ”Events in Western Australia mean that the Australian Electoral Commission must regain the confidence of the community,” Senator Ronaldson said in a statement. ”The government will in due course announce a new electoral commissioner who will be charged with the restoration of that confidence.”