news Australia Post has aired plans to take voting into the digital era in a submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Electoral Matters Committee that would see it build a blockchain-based e-voting system for the state.
Digital voting promises convenience, rapid counting of votes, increased efficiency and transparency, and reduced costs. However, to date, there has been “no wide-spread, consistently successful adoption” of digital voting by world governments, Australia Post said.
Recognising the complexity required for such a digital voting system, Tim Adamson – Australia Post’s State Director, Victorian Government & Tasmania and author of the submission – said the solution must be “scalable, resilient and secure”, while voters must be uniquely identifiable. Further, votes must be impossible to alter once cast.
While it must be possible to verify the vote and the vote count, the privacy of the vote must not be compromised, he said. Additionally, such a solution must be flexible enough to allow different types of voting.
For its “complete solution for e-voting”, Australia Post would build an independent e-voting application that links to its identity platform and provides several functions as follows:
- Anonymised votes to ensure identities cannot be matched to voting preference
- Ensures one vote per identity and monitors against misuse
- Incorporates robust compliance and audit engines and processes to ensure government and public trust in the system.
While other organisations are already looking at digital voting solutions using blockchain technology, Australia Post said it is “uniquely positioned to solve this challenge”.
“As society continues its transformation into a true digital economy we believe that Australia Post has an important role to play in continuing to help electoral bodies in the execution of their responsibilities,” said Adamson in the submission.
Rather than leap in at the deep end with a large scale e-voting system, Australia Post said its roadmap would start with small, localised solutions for corporate, civic and community organisations.
This will enable the organisation to gain insights into the behaviours of voters and the early demands of a digital solution, as well as prove the viability of the solution.
“Our initial offerings will target institutions such as Universities,” according to the submission. “Universities are self-contained eco systems of broad voter activity in clubs, unions and board level voting.”
An additional advantage would be that the voter community within a university will likely have a higher level of digital awareness than other demographics and as such is likely to “engage more readily, providing rapid learning opportunities and proof points for the solution”.
The next stage would address the “more complex challenges” of voting at a parliamentary scale, within regulatory and legal constraints.
By showcasing the “proof points”, Australia Post suggested it will be in a position to influence broader adoption and approach regulatory and legal issues “with confidence”.
To successfully digitise Victorian elections, Australia Post conceded it will need to address security concerns and the associated technology costs, as well accommodate the “complex and cherished Australian democratic approaches”.
Absentee and postal voting will also need to be included in the solution, the submission said.
For VEC specifically, the organisation will need to create a solution for real-time capture, verification and audit of up to 4 million uniquely allocated votes across 17 parties and almost 900 candidates.
Further it will need to protect the integrity of the voting process and stand up to the scrutiny of the public, as well as legislative, regulatory, and political experts and the press.
Impartiality is also an issue, and any solution must give equal prominence to all candidates when displayed on a variety of digital devices, the submission said.
“With a successful history of supporting the conduct of Federal, State and Local elections through postal voting we have considered how our role might evolve in this space, leveraging our existing services and our new digital and identity capabilities in such a way that no citizen is excluded from voting,” the submission said, adding:
“The challenges are significant and it will take an organisation with Australia Post’s unique capabilities, experience and community connection, working with organisations such as VEC, to solve them.”
Image credit: Australia Post