Census debacle should not stop the proposal for e-voting in federal elections

Electronic voting at pre-poll stations should be considered for the next federal election. Photo: Graham TidyFollowing the federal election there was much mumbling about the delay in getting a result and the need for online voting.
Nanjing Night Net

The e-census debacle has put an end to any proposal to have voting from home.

But it shouldn’t stop the slow and gradual development of an improved voting system.

The long delay in getting a result in a close election is largely due to the time taken to process pre-poll and postal votes.

ABC election analyst Antony Green suggested after the election that the process could be speeded up by having e-voting for these voters.

There are too many obvious problems with home voting including the huge scope of such a system, the danger of hacking, the danger that a home-voter could be intimidated by another person, etc.

But pre-poll voting is another matter.

There are about 600 pre-poll stations run by the Australian Electoral Commission for the three weeks before an election.

As a first step trial we could have the AEC install and run e-voting computers at some, if not all of these stations.

To verify the e-vote it would be possible to have a printed back-up. After recording their preference, voters would get a printed copy of the vote.

The voter could check to see that it is correct and then, before leaving the station, deposit the print-out in an e-ballot box. These print-outs could be kept and should the need arise be cross-checked against the station’s recorded e-vote.

Traditional voters could still be given the option of voting using ordinary ballot papers.

Their ballot papers could be deposited in separate ballot boxes to be counted in the usual way.

Voters could be offered a choice as they enter the polling booth – an e-vote or a traditional vote. Most would probably choose to go with the queue moving fastest.

The system would require the use of electronic certified electoral rolls to identify and record voters. This step has already been recommended by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral matters.

Alongside this it is surely time that voters were required to produce some form of identification when they turn up to vote.

There would be a number of advantages from having an e-voting option at pre-polling centres. Firstly it would be easier to record the preferences of electors voting away from their home electorate.

Secondly the AEC would have control of the computers accessing the system and officers could be on hand to assist with the inevitable teething problems.

Once the poll closed, the pre-poll votes would be the fastest counted, rather than the slowest as at present.

Having a mixed system has its drawbacks, but this will be necessary until a safe new system is developed and everyone is comfortable with it.

There clearly would be additional AEC costs in a hybrid system – new computers, the cost of set-up and testing in each pre-poll station, the cost of training staff and voters in how to use the system and not least the cost of securing the system.

There’s also the question of finding contractors or in-house people to build the system. With such an important project, can we trust foreign technology companies, whether Chinese or American, to be involved? Rugby Gold’s what if moment at the Olympics

It was fantastic to see Fiji win the men’s Rugby Sevens Olympic gold, but disappointing to see Australia not even make the semis – raising an age-old “what if” question.

What if the Australian Rugby Sevens Olympic team was drawn not just from rugby union players but from the best rugby union and rugby league players?

Over the years arguments have raged about which code has the best players.

Imagine the interest in pre-Olympic play-off trials between the best league and union sevens teams.

The two codes split in England in 1895, followed by Australia in 1907.

Over the years the codes have diverged but most of the player skills are common to both codes.

Rugby union was officially an amateur sport until 1995 and many top Australian union players were lured to league in the decades up to that time.

But in recent years the flow has been reversed as the union, with its greater international following, poaches players for clubs as far afield as Japan and France.

In the past challenge matches have been arranged between the codes with one half of union and one of league.

Last month Wallabies rugby union coach Michael Cheika arranged a training session with his players, taking on the Sydney Roosters league team.

Sevens is administered by World Rugby but in many ways is more like league than union.

It’s a fast running game with essential man-on-man (or woman-on-woman) tackling.

On the announcement that Sevens would be an Olympic sport the Australian Rugby Union initiated a talent identification program for women that ultimately produced a gold-medal winning team. Players for this team were drawn from a variety of sports including rugby league, touch football, athletics and basketball.

Men’s league and union are highly developed and skilled, and there is no chance that players from other codes would make the grade.

Followers of both union and league have long yearned for re-integration of the game with the best rules from each.

Australian rugby union supporters have long been exasperated by hold ups to the game with collapsed scrums, endless re-setting of scrums or repeated unfathomable scrum penalties.

Equally, critics of league complain about the lack of flair in forward hit-ups and set plays.

Sevens current rules provide a showcase for running rugby and would give league players a chance to demonstrate not only their skills in this area but also their much proclaimed tacking skills.

If the administrators, politicians and contract negotiators of both codes found a way to facilitate the selection of an Australian Olympic team from both codes we might find ourselves in the running for gold.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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