Contract for electronic voting and counting software signed

Published 19 Apr 2001

Electronic voting and vote counting at the next ACT Legislative Assembly election took another step today with the announcement of the successful software tenderer.

Software Improvements, a locally owned company, has been selected to provide software for computer voting and vote counting for ACT elections, the ACT Electoral Commissioner, Phil Green, announced today. The next election will be held on 20 October 2001.

In responding to the electronic voting tender, Software Improvements and its subcontractors were able to cite extensive experience in developing high integrity software. Experts from the Australian National University's Research School of Information Sciences and Engineering and developers from VA Linux Systems are part of the Software Improvements team developing the new system.

Using an on-screen ballot paper designed by Software Improvements, some voters at the next ACT election will be able to show preferences for candidates using a simplified keyboard. Their votes will be recorded on computer disk and counted electronically after the polls close.

Electronic voting will be made available for voters unable to get to a polling place at 4 pre-poll voting centres (in Civic, Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong) and at 8 polling places throughout Canberra on election day. Around 20,000 of the ACT's 214,000 voters are expected to be able to vote electronically.

"Most voters will still vote on traditional ballot papers. A data-entry process designed by Software Improvements will convert handwritten preferences on paper ballots into electronic form, to be combined with the electronic voting data to produce the election results under the ACT's Hare-Clark electoral system," Mr Green said.

The ACT Electoral Commission has been exploring options for electronic voting and vote counting since the 1998 election. The ACT Legislative Assembly amended the Electoral Act in December 2000 to allow computer voting and counting at ACT elections.

"Introduction of electronic voting and vote counting should ensure that future ACT elections are counted more accurately than the old hand-counting method, leading to greater confidence in election outcomes," Mr Green said.

"The new software will be subjected to extensive testing to ensure it is accurate and secure, as well as easy to use. The software will be used on standard computer hardware, that will not be connected to any external networks. The system will also include numerous backups and safeguards to ensure that voting data will not be lost. This will guarantee the security of the electronic voting and counting processes," Mr Green said.