AUSTRALIA’s top election pundit has thrown his weight behind the introduction of electronic voting saying it could avoid the interminable wait for election results.
ABC election analyst Antony Green said consideration should be given to postal and absentee voting heading online.
“If you could do that electronically, most of the paperwork disappears,” he said on Wednesday.
Mr Green’s comments come as new research has revealed 75 per cent of Australians would be willing to vote electronically. Cutting out the long station queues to vote was cited as the chief benefit.
Four days after the election, neither major party is currently in a position to claim victory.
According to Mr Green’s ABC forecast the Coalition currently has 70 seats, Labor 67 and the independents four with eight seats up for grabs. The Australian Electoral Commission puts the Coalition on 70 and Labor on 71 with six seats close.
The delay in calling the remaining seats is due to the pre-poll, absentee and postal votes which have to be collated and distributed before being counted.
On Tuesday, Malcolm Turnbull said it was unlikely a result would be known any time soon.
“I know many Australians find this sort of frustrating, the wait, and you can imagine that we are among them. I’d be amazed if it wasn’t resolved within a week.”
Yet, in many countries, the option of electronic voting has taken the wait out of elections. In Estonia, more than 30 per cent of voters opted to cast their votes online at the most recent general election. In the Philippines, voters still head to polling places but their votes are recorded electronically with the result known within hours.
VOTES WOULD COME QUICKLY
Talking to ABC News Breakfast on Tuesday, Mr Green said e-voting should be introduced in Australia for some voters.
“The clearest thing you can do is introduce electronic voting for pre-poll.
“You have got voting in multiple electorates which is a very time consuming to reconcile the ballot papers afterwards. If you could do that electronically, most of the paperwork disappears,” he said.
“On election night, the giant postal votes would come through quickly.”
Voting electronically for absentee votes, where people vote at a polling booth outside of their electorate would do away with reams of ballot papers.
While some countries shave embraced electronic voting, others — including Norway and the Netherlands — have gone back to pen and paper due to concerns about security and vote tampering.
A 2015 federal parliamentary report ruled out introducing e-voting declaring,“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.”
A survey conducted by the University of New England’s Mobile Voting research program, seen by news.com.au, showed fears that hackers could alter votes was the number one public concern when it came to online voting with 75 per cent of respondents raising it as a concern.
A team led by PhD student Phillip Zada interviewed 300 people during the 2015 NSW state election.
NO MORE QUEUES
But despite security fears, three quarters of people said they would consider voting online with 71 per cent saying a paper receipt, detailing their vote, would reassure them their vote would not be tampered.
Nine-out-of-10 of respondents said the ability to vote anywhere was the chief benefit of online voting while 73 per cent said ditching the long election day queues would be welcome.
“Respondents were in favour of using mobile internet e-voting with more respondents requiring greater information about the technology than being against its use [altogether] which we found to be quite positive,” said Mr Zada.
One of the world’s largest electronic voting companies has also weighed into the Australian election debate.
Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, chairman of Smartmatic, a company that provides electronic voting systems to countries including Estonia, the US and Brazil, claimed its systems would have revealed the final result by now.
“The failures we are seeing in elections from Austria to Australia are further proof of the urgent need to modernise how democracies across the world vote.
“The introduction of simple technology such as electronic counting or online voting could boost turnout, eliminate the possibility of error or fraud and help to ensure speedy results,” he said.
“There is no question this works. The real question is how many more failed elections do we need to see before action is taken to bring them up to speed?”
A survey by the company, following the UK’s EU referendum, found 45 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds and 28 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds who did not vote in the Brexit poll said they would have been more likely to do so if they had been able to vote online.
This amounted to 1.1 million votes that weren’t cast. The eventual gap between the leave and remain sides was only a little higher at 1.3 million votes.