By RYAN COLSEY
With the advancement of online technology, South Australia’s long history of conducting elections exclusively with the pen and ballot paper appears numbered.
At the 2018 State Election, almost a third of all votes were cast outside of Election Day, submitted either in an early-voting centre or posted to Electoral Commission of South Australia.
For people in remote areas of the state or those with mobility issues, postal voting or attending a pre-polling centre can be difficult.
In a society where people are accustomed to online services for banking and shopping, it seems realistic to apply this to voting.
Online voting is already used in New South Wales and several other parts of the world.
It can be done one of two ways; either through a polling booth and voting using a machine or simply receiving a unique login code and voting from home.
In 2011, the New South Wales Electoral Commission introduced ‘iVote’ for voters in rural areas or who were outside the state on Election Day.
If South Australia allowed online voting it would result in elections being cheaper to run as money would be saved on printing out postal ballots and less staff needed to tally the votes.
Even though the South Australian election has already determined a winner, the painstaking task of manually counting and recounting all the ballots is still continuing in the Legislative Council.
Because of this slow process, the final results will not be known for weeks.
Oliver Brown worked as a Polling Official on Election Day at Trinity Gardens in the seat of Dunstan.
In his role he spent four and a half hours counting ballots and while he enjoyed the experience, he lamented the inefficiency and unreliability of vote-counting.
“I’d definitely support electronic voting for future elections,” he said.
“It would only make things easier for both the electors and the staff counting votes.
“The process of breaking down the votes into different sections several times only left us open to making mistakes, which made it necessary to double and triple check.”
While moving voting online would undoubtedly be more efficient, it raises questions about security and privacy.
Managing Director at software consultancy Pacesetter Services, Richard Love said online voting will definitely happen in South Australia at some stage.
“Online voting is inevitable” he said. “There has already been significant discussion at the local government level across Australia about the merits of online voting. The debate is not about ‘Is it a good idea?’ but rather ‘Is it secure?’”
Security has long been a concern for those skeptical of online voting.
“We should not forget the debacle of the 2016 Census which became an example of how things can go wrong when government goes online,” he said.
In the 2015 New South Wales State Election, a cyber-attack on the ‘iVote’ website resulted in two political parties disappearing from the voting options for several hours.
Almost 20,000 votes were cast online with an incomplete list of the parties before the problem was fixed.
Despite this error, Mr Love was confident that online voting would work in the long-term.
“It should not be difficult to resolve security and privacy issues,” he said.
“After all, nearly all of us use online banking.”
Last year the New South Wales Parliament passed Electoral Bill 2017 which will see online voting expanded at the next state election in 2019.
It would seem only a matter of time until South Australia follows suit.
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