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back to article Turnbull floats e-vote, compulsory ID

Incoming communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has offered up his first post-election policy thought-bubble, suggesting that Australia should adopt electronic voting kiosks and compulsory identification for voters. Speaking to ABC TV, Turnbull said the high level of informal (that is, invalid or incorrectly-cast) votes is so …

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The senate vote paper, with 110 (for NSW) candidates is a real pig - I had to do mine twice, and am still worried I was informal!

No, I don't vote above the line - I have serious moral objections to the vote-trading that goes on amongst parties - if the parties were distributing their preferences according to who else has a similar/compatible/complimentary platform, it would be fine, but they actually distribute preferences on a mutual-back-scratching system, so if you let your preferred party choose your preferences you are quite likely to end up voting high for raving loonies simply because said loonies agreed to send preferences back. I am pretty sure that isn't how above-the-line was intended to be used!

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According to Antony Green's blog, there's a 10% allowance of errors if voting below the line- if you put a number out of sequence or double up one or two numbers, the vote is still considered formal. You can also vote both above *and* below the line, and the below the line vote takes preference - if it's invalid, then the above the line vote counts.

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Not quite. You are allowed to leave up to 10% of the boxes empty if you vote below the line in the senate, and the AEC will still consider your ballot to be formal.

As for other errors when voting below the line, you are allowed up to three breaks in sequence or duplicated preferences, unless it's your first preference, of which there must be one and only one.

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Thanks for the clarification :) Sadly I only discovered this on the night of the election - after I already voted, and I'll probably forget it by the time the next election comes around...

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Anonymous Coward

Electronic voting will make fraud much easier.

Population 2.8 million

Votes cast 6.2 Million

And the winner is, by a margin of 95%.........

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"Not quite. You are allowed to leave up to 10% of the boxes empty if you vote below the line in the senate, and the AEC will still consider your ballot to be formal. As for other errors when voting below the line, you are allowed up to three breaks in sequence or duplicated preferences, unless it's your first preference, of which there must be one and only one."

By the sound of it, the Oz voting system is already complex and well ***ed. Why the fuss about proposals to make it worse? As with most "democracies", the end result flip flops between a couple of barely distinguishable major parties, who only ever act in their own interests and beliefs, and then seem to have a like mind on (for example) spying on their own population, unleashing a never ending torrent of poorly thought through legislation, and persistently failing to manage either the economy or the budget.

At least you've got mostly sunny weather, and Chinese commodity demand to keep the economy afloat.

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..........Sodoff Baldrick, of the Adder Party.

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Re: Ledswinger

Those conditions are only there as a kind of failsafe, to ensure that a slight mistake on the elector's behalf doesn't make their ballot informal. The assumption when counting is always that the elector was trying to cast a formal ballot and wanted their vote to be counted. Those conditions are not, on their own, voting rules. If you fill your ballot paper correctly those assessment criteria aren't even invoked, and in some states not even 5% of senate ballot papers are filled below the line anyway.

Now, if you're suggesting that a system that requires these conditions to ensure that electors aren't unfairly disenfranchised is ridiculous, then I fully agree. The "above the line" option was introduced about 25 years ago as a concession to voters given the increasing number of candidates, but it, and the preference deals struck between parties around the above the line votes, are now out of control. Antony Green's been on that case for years but nobody seemed to be paying attention, though with any luck this year's debacle (>1m long ballot papers and fresnel lenses in polling booths?!) will kick someone in to action.

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bep

Re: Ledswinger

It seems to me that a suitable solution would be require voters to number all the boxes above the line. That way people would at least have to read the name of the party they are preferencing and they might decide not to vote for the "Release more pigs in national parks" party etc after all.

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Go

I wouldn't mind with two changes

I actually like mandatory polling booth attendance, which minimises the risk of cronies threatening people from attending polling booths, but there are two glaring ways in which the system is manipulated right now.

Firstly, with 110 candidates, how should I know where specifically to preference the bee keepers for higher buildings party. It is a surprisingly difficult and meaningless task to rank them. Above the line voting simplified it but parties figured out how to game the system by creating preference deals amongst themselves. In my view, scrap above the line, and allow the citizen to fill from 1 to 6 (for half senate) or 1 to 12 (for full senate).

Secondly, there is too much advantage of being first column on the page. A bunch of gun nutters won a huge portion of NSW because their name vaguely sounded like one of the main parties and they happened to draw first on the page. This is somewhere electronic voting could help (they could display the candidates in random order). Even with paper based voting it could be minimised by having different candidate orders (not at the same polling booths for practicality during counting, but it could be done for different booths to average out the donkey).

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None of the above

They would get a lot fewer "informal" votes if there was an option to select none of the above.

The informal vote was much higher in the western Sydney region which is typically a Labor stronghold. My guess is that a lot of voters did not want to support Labor this time, but could not bring themselves to vote for the Libs either.

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Re: None of the above

I worked for the AEC a few years ago ticking names off and counting votes - the number of informal votes due to incorrect marking was probably lower than the number of donkeys drawn on ballot papers.

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Re: None of the above

He's right about one thing. The e-voting machines I've encountered simply don't allow you to submit an informal ballot, even if you want to.

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bep

Re: None of the above

Exactly, because voting is compulsory some people just take the ballot and make a deliberate informal vote. It's kind of surprising there isn't more fraud considering you don't have to show any ID, but the fact is fraud isn't a big issue in Australian elections and there is nothing to be said for fixing a problem that doesn't exist.

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Re: None of the above

Voting is mandatory but moreover is a right of all Australian citizens. Having photo ID, however, is NOT mandatory as we are not (yet) a police state with internal passports and are not required to have our documents with us at all times.

I had an argument with one of the polling officials a few years back when they asked me for my driver's license. I told them I didn't drive (whether or not I do is irrelevant). He then told me I couldn't vote. I asked him if only people who drive were allowed to vote, which confused him for a bit. He then asked if I had a proof of age card and I told him that I didn't drink either. (I so do - far more than my doctor is comfortable with.)

He called over the person with the most impressive lanyard, whom I then continued to argue with off to one side. She confirmed that I needed photo ID and wouldn't budge from that position. I asked her what would happen if I didn't vote and she said I would get a fine. I pointed out that I was in effect being fined for not having a photo ID and that that was rather odd seeing as there is no legal requirement to have a photo ID.

I told her that I had never needed photo ID to vote before and she said that that those were the rules and that was that. I got a fine and replied with the explanation that my polling official had prevented me voting. Never heard a thing back.

Not that it mattered as my seat is about as safe as a set can be.

Now the real TL;DR....

It is fundamentally un-constitutional to require people to have a photographic ID in order to vote. While the question of whether the constitution does in fact guarantee the right to vote was up for debate for a long time, it was fairly much settled in the affirmative in late 2007; Australian citizens have a constitutional right to vote.

Section 41 of the Constitution states that no adult with the right to vote for at the state level shall be prevented by any Commonwealth law from voting in federal elections. That of course dates from the colonial period but taken with s7 and s21, and the (relatively) recent judicial interpretation that they do in fact guarantee the right to vote, the Constitution states that no law shall prevent people from voting.

Constitutional rights have legal primacy and cannot be changed or negated by legislation.

Passing legislation that REQUIRES people to show photographic identification has the side effect that anyone without such ID would then be denied their now confirmed constitutional right to vote.

You might say that the requirement to enrol to vote is therefore unconstitutional and that you should be able to vote without enrolling. It's not been tested but you can indeed vote without enrolling, which is called a 'declaration vote'. Exactly how that works I am not sure but whatever.

Sure, having photo ID might be a requirement of setting up a PO Box but then access to a PO box is not, so far as I am aware, a constitutional right.

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So it begins

Oh dear! So it begins

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undemocratic swill

This thought bubble is straight out of the American Republicans playbook. As in America there is no problem with vote fraud but lets disenfranchise the homeless unemployed Labour voters who have no photo I.D.'s just because we can. Using the American example Voting Machines are totally corruptible using completely unauditable closed source corpratz devices to transparently rig the electoral process. While we're at it lets get rid of compulsory voting as well why don't we. Australia clearly doesn't know what they've let themselves in for because these aristo's refused to discus any substantive policies or costings.

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Unhappy

Re: undemocratic swill

That's us. Fucking things up for everyone else.

We have become the guy no one wants at parties. Something is guaranteed to be broken, burning or missing when we leave.

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Re: undemocratic swill

We now know the NSA have been working with American security companies to weaken security systems and insert back doors. I would say its VERY likely that diebold are part of this, and the system is more open to corruption than we thought. Either turnbul is in on it, or ignorant. Eitherway we need to make sure this does not happen. We should never allow electronic voting on closed systems, or systems imported from anywhere else.

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Re: undemocratic swill

I would say its VERY likely that diebold are part of this

I don't think it's especially likely. Diebold have consistently shown themselves unable to engineer systems that are secure in any sense - they're easy to subvert, unreliable even when not subverted, impossible to audit, etc. There's no need for the NSA to suborn actors who are already incompetent.

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Re: undemocratic swill

Let me get this right, you have large corporation running the voting process and your are sure the vote is rigged? Why did the Republicans loose to Obama, after defending the presidency, and then keep loosing ever since?

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Big Brother

Forced to vote for one of these morons

Why bother with elections at all if Malcolm is so sure why people vote informal. If he knows so much about (non) voters motivations, he can just select the next government without our assistance. Or, perhaps it's because at least 3% of the population don't want any of the nutters who offer themselves up?

He's actually suggesting that we bee forced to select one (in fact all, since we have to complete all boxes for the vote to be formal) of the magnificent specimens we're presented with every three years. You've got to be joking. My choice was Kevin supporter, dumb liberal, right wing Katter, even more right wing Clive, even more right wing "Family First", even further right wing shooter. Beam me up!

And as for electronic voting, even Malcolm must be able to google just enough to understand that

- There are huge security problems

- It has the potential to destroy the anonymity of the vote

- The US, which was an early adopter, is abandoning electronic voting in many areas

- It costs more, not less

There is no problem. Does Malcolm have shares in Diebold? We've got rid of one arrogant narcissist. Let's hope we're not getting a replacement.

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Re: Forced to vote for one of these morons

I'm with you.

For the Lower House in my electorate I had a choice between the two major parties (both of which disgust me), a couple of fundamentalist Christian loons, a Family Party guy (another fundamentalist loon), and a couple of myopic single purpose candidates whose policies were so far 'out there' that they were technically unelectable. For the Senate (unless I voted 'above the line for one of the major parties) I had to make a choice between 100 odd (and many were really 'odd') candidates most of whom I would prefer seeing consigned to Her Majesty's Pleasure rather than the Senate.

I simply decided to fold up both pieces of paper without despoiling them with my vote, and whack them in the boxes. My 'informal' vote was therefore a protest vote ... but thanks to the politicians in this country who won't allow the protest vote to be counted as anything but 'informal' on election night, we'll never know how many like minded people there were on 7 September.

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FAIL

Let's call Diebold ...

... Let's not, but say we did...

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Re: Let's call Diebold ...

I think the saying ' To err is human, to really screw up requires a computer' applies to Diebold.

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Happy

Bright Side

If nothing else, how many of you knew the word 'psephologist'?

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Re: Bright Side

Thanks to Antony Green's well deserved popularity, yours is a question that comes up every three years!

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FAIL

Yeah right Mal!

Haven't you got an NBN to hobble?

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No Money

There is never any money for the AEC anyway. In an environment where they are slashing public service jobs, the millions required for eVoting won’t happen.

Having worked for the AEC for many decades, these fantasies claims come and go, I still enjoy those clever satirical notes or replacement of all the candidates with V8 super car drivers. Lightens what is a very long day for those involved.

As far as informal, any rise there is likely due to people don’t want to vote for any of the candidates. so they simply lodge a blank ballot. And its compulsory attendance, you don’t have to vote for anyone, just put the blank ballot in the box and you done. (actually if you want you simply walk out...

A final thought.. the REAL reason Malcolm wants your to be forced to lodge a valid vote is the first preference gets ~$3 per ballot.. so if all the informal votes were formal that’s nearly $2Mil!!

BvB

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Re: No Money

Do you still work for AEC?

Can you ask them why voters in TAS and NT are worth twice as much as those in ACT?

Cheers.

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Call Florida

They could fix all this nonsense by adopting Florida's new voting machine.

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Finger pointing and misdirection

Yeah, we have a human problem, only machines can solve it. Machines designed by... Oh wait....

Voting may be an involved process, but someone designed it trying to make it some kind of fair and balanced. A simple "I don't trust any of you but you made me waste a morning choosing between you" box would speed things up for the disenfranchised to have a disenfranchised box.

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WTF?

I voted informally (and I don't mean I forgot to wear shoes)

Personally I was so blown away by Abbott and Costel...er Rudd that I had no intention of voting for either party and felt more than a little depressed that any vote I cast would eventually be preferenced over to one of those losers.

So I intentionally cast an informal ballot so the AEC and by extension our political parties understand that I voted a big FU to both parties at this time.

Naturally the likes of Turnball would see this as a "mistake" I just can't believe they are talking about voting machines after thier long and spotty history - one of the best tings about Australian democracy was the paper ballots.

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At least one thing is clear:

...the new Australian government is getting its strategy advise from US right wing think tanks.

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Unhappy

In shock news the Telecommunications Minister turns out to be an ignorant dick

Quite remarkably like the last one in fact.

And what's this about ID.

Do all Australians have an identity card? Or rather he would like all Australians to have one?

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First thing Australia needs

The first electoral reform Australia needs is to introduce a proper way to record an abstention.

You are no freer in a society where voting is compulsory, than in a society where there is no voting. And the compulsory vote is wide-open to abuse -- a person who knew what they were doing could get themself elected on the compulsory vote alone.

The beauty of pencil and paper for voting is that everyone can understand them -- and if everyone can understand the paraphernalia used in an election, everyone can potentially be a scrutineer. When you get rid of pencil and paper, you get rid of universal comprehensibility. Even if the plans and the firmware for the machines are published and they are available for inspection whenever not being used in an election, it is still going to be only a minority of the population who can verify that the machines are built to the drawings -- and there is still no way to verify that the machines or software are exactly as you examined.

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Re: First thing Australia needs

I'm not the world's biggest fan of compulsory voting, but...

"You are no freer in a society where voting is compulsory, than in a society where there is no voting."

I've heard some ridiculous things in my time. This is one of them.

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I have a problem with Mr Turnbull

Firstly he wanted to ditch Her Majesty, which was bad enough.

Now he wants to destroy our cherished tradition of being able to draw crude penises on our ballot papers using government supplied pencils.

The man is obviously some kind of anarchist.

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Hmm

Just take in a rattle can and a stencil for all your crude penis art needs.

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Surely the cost and inconvenience of paper voting

Is completely outweighed by the potential for fraud in an electronic version? It's easy enough in traditional voting as it is...

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Anonymous Coward

Sickies

The article says voting is compulsory - and a friend is not allowed to vote "honestly" in your place. So what currently happens to people on holiday, taken ill, or unexpectedly away from their home state on voting day?

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Re: Sickies

You can vote anywhere in australia, or at an australian embassy, consulate or misson anywhere in the world. If you know you are not (or may not) be able to vote on election day you can pre-poll either in person or my mail several weeks before the election (Basically once the candidates are confirmed). My parents were on the sunny Mediterranean on election night and so pre-polled several weeks ago.

These votes are counted last, I.e. only if they could change the outcome of the election.

If given all these choices you still didn't attend to your duty you will receive a fine of about $50.

Strangely enough practically all Australian do conscientiously attend to voting. At the polling places there are the usual rabble who want to hand out "how to vote" cards. Most people have already made up their mind, and either don't want one, or only take the one for the party they so desire.

Of course, deciding to vote informally shows that the person has made a serious effort in understanding the candidates, their policies, and possible decided that they are all bat shit crazy. It is a valid choice. the difference between allowing compulsory voting (including informals) and optional voting is simple. If you decide to vote informally you have still looked at the candidates, and thought about it.

I generally start voting from both ends. I know who goes first, and who goes last. It's the great unwashed in the middle that is so bloody hard to order :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sickies

"At the polling places there are the usual rabble who want to hand out "how to vote" cards."

Thanks for the explanation.

In England it is, or certainly used to be, illegal to try to influence a person entering a polling station. There was time when a policeman was stationed outside every polling station. Tellers trying to track their Parties' supporters were warned not to ask people for their Electoral Roll number until after they had voted. Otherwise they could be accused of trying to influence them.

Nowadays the few party tellers seem to have forgotten that rule and premptorily ask for you number as you enter.

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Pesky paper trails

Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with e-voting but it has to be tamper proof and it has to be backed up by a paper record so that voters can verify that their vote has been recorded, to act as a secondary counting mechanism if the first fails (e.g. the hard disk is corrupted before votes can be counted), to detect fraud and to conduct audits.

Some proportional representation systems are so horrifically complex with rounds of recounts that they'd probably benefit more from e-voting than first past the post systems where normally just one count is necessary.

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Re: Pesky paper trails

There is no proof that what the computer has recorded internally is the same as what the voter selected, and what is printed on the audit trail. That fundamental lack of ability to see how the machine is operating means that it cannot ever be trustworthy.

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Re: Pesky paper trails

Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with e-voting

Yes there is. Two things, at least:

1. It is not Universally Comprehensible.

2. It relies on token copying, which is inherently broken.

Proper way to do it: You have a token which is unique to you (poll card) which you exchange for a non-unique token (ballot paper) indistinguible from any other of its type. You mark the non-unique token in one of a finite number of ways (casting your vote); it now remains indistinguible from any other token marked up in the same way. The actual, marked-up tokens are counted (ideally, manually, and by the candidates themselves and/or their appointed representatives; since none of them trust each other, the only result they can agree on is the truth).

There is no way to be certain that a machine is actually recording a vote for the candidate it says it is. It can show on the screen a vote for candidate A, it can print out a receipt showing a vote for candidate A; but if it has recorded a vote for candidate B internally, there is no way to know.

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Re: Pesky paper trails

"There is no proof that what the computer has recorded internally is the same as what the voter selected, and what is printed on the audit trail. That fundamental lack of ability to see how the machine is operating means that it cannot ever be trustworthy."

Yes there are. Print out a receipt. Voter checks the receipt for correctness and sticks it in a box. The receipt could include a barcode or id code which allows the vote to be tallied with its electronic equivalent. Any amount of checking and validation is possible thereafter to whatever accuracy criteria is desired.

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Re: Pesky paper trails

All you've done there is move the problem somewhere else. You might have receipt no. 52369 showing a vote for candidate A; all you can be sure of is that the machine recorded a vote for A against 52369 in one of its databases. You don't know that there isn't another database, where 52369 voted for candidate B. Worse, if there is any kind of identifying information on the receipt, and it is anywhere outside the voter's own possession, then it might be possible to link the vote back to the voter. That would compromise the secrecy of the ballot. The whole point, as alluded to above, is that every ballot paper filled the same way must be indistinguible from any other ballot paper filled in the same way. That is the only way the anonymity of the ballot paper can be preserved.

Anyway, even if the voter keeps the receipt and has to take it to the Town Hall to check it, it still doesn't work. Consider this scenario:

Candidate A receives 500 votes, B receives 390 and C receives 110. But the announced result, however, is A 380, B 500, C 120. You voted for A. You go with your receipt to the Town Hall to check how your vote was recorded, and are correctly told you voted for A. And that’s as far as you can take the matter.

Even if all 499 of the other people who voted for A go and check, they’ll be told — rightly — that their vote was for A. And because (1) they all go in one at a time to check their vote, and (2) there are also many B- and C-voters in there, not one single one of the A-voters will be the slightest bit the wiser that there are really 500 of them, as opposed to the 380 that was announced!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pesky paper trails

"You have a token which is unique to you (poll card) which you exchange for a non-unique token (ballot paper) indistinguible from any other of its type."

I believe that in England the ballot paper has a serial number which is recorded against your name on the "voted" sheets. These paper documents are then stored in an archive for a considerable number of years. Older friends just after the war were concerned that a totalitarian government would be able to correlate these records for the purpose of political purges.

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