Statements On Reports: Electronic Voting

Ms SPENCE (Yuroke) (10:32:10) — Today I would like to make some comments in relation to the Electoral Matters Committee inquiry into electronic voting, which reported in May 2017. Since the tabling of the committee’s report we have received the government’s response to the recommendations, and we have also received the response from the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). The comments I wish to make today relate to recommendation 5 in the committee’s report and the response of the VEC to that recommendation. Recommendation 5 states:

The committee recommends that the VEC prepare a detailed cost‑benefit analysis for rolling out electronic roll mark‑off facilities to all Victorian polling places, including early voting centres and election day voting centres, at the 2018 Victorian state election. This information should be included in the VEC’s 2017–18 annual report.

In making this recommendation the committee considered what electronic technology was currently used during Victorian state elections and ways in which technology can be used to improve the administration and efficiency of our state elections. One form of electronic technology that we looked at was the use of electronic certified lists and the electronic roll mark‑off devices in the form of tablets as an alternative to the paper roll mark‑off at polling places. These devices allow for electoral officials to mark an elector’s name off the roll electronically, with the device linked to the VEC’s election management server. As many would know, these devices were deployed by the VEC during the 2010 and 2014 state elections; however; they were only available at early voting centres.

Given the limited use of these devices by the VEC, the committee also considered the Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) use of electronic certified lists for federal elections. We were aided in doing this by the federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which had considered this issue in their inquiry into the 2013 federal election. That committee recommended in its report that the AEC deploy electronic certified lists where possible to all early voting centres and mobile voting teams at the next federal election, that these be progressively implemented with a view to the eventual replacement of paper lists at all polling places and that there be a cost‑benefit analysis and report included in the AEC’s annual report process.

Our committee agreed with the commonwealth committee in that regard, in that electronic lists:

offer significant benefits for the delivery of election support services through an improvement in the timeliness and accuracy of roll mark‑off management, reduction in paper lists …

and more timely election results. It was for these reasons that the committee made its recommendation for the VEC to conduct a similar cost‑benefit analysis to the AEC and, in doing so, to focus not just on the hardware costs but also on the reduced staffing costs associated with the time saved by using a traditional paper roll. As noted earlier, the VEC has responded to the committee’s recommendations and advised that at the 2014 state election there were a total of 1065 devices deployed with 591 covering mobile early voting, 369 covering all early voting centres and 591 devices at 106 election day centres.

The VEC agreed with the findings of the committee that electronic roll markings reduced voting time, particularly for absentee voters; it enables faster count times for early and absent votes; and also provides the ability to instantly identify attempts of multiple voting. The VEC also noted that they provide the ability to monitor voting flows throughout the day and respond to unexpected peaks and they remove the need for paper rolls to be scanned after the election, which is currently a four‑week exercise that has to be undertaken.

However, the VEC did advise that there was a significant cost to these devices being rolled out to all election day centres and they stressed the need to effectively balance the benefit of the devices with the cost. So I am pleased that the VEC have advised, in their response, that they will undertake a detailed cost‑benefit analysis of deploying electronic mark‑off facilities to all voting centres in Victoria during the 2018 election and I look forward to receiving the report from the VEC by 30 June this year, with work also being referenced in the VEC’s annual report for 2017 and 2018.