The Electoral Commission of Queensland will forgo electronic voting for the next state election, sidelining plans to develop a system as a result of legislative restrictions in the state.
The commission allocated $960,000 in funding late last year for research into technology to assist voting for the blind and vision impaired, following similar projects in NSW and Victoria ahead of their respective elections.
However, the funding has so far remained unused. Electoral Commissioner for Queensland, David Kerslake, told Computerworld Australia that the project was dependent on changes in state legislation which, even if made this year, would not provide enough time for system development ahead of the next election sometime early in 2012.
“If the legislation was brought in at this point it would be too late to develop a system in time for the next state election,” Kerslake said. “We don’t have a fixed term election in Queensland, so if we knew when it was scheduled we might go ahead and get it ready but we don’t so we need to get our systems in place and lock them down in readiness.”
Despite lack of legislation, Kerslake said the commission remained keen to introduce electronic voting in the state. The allocated funds would likely be used to contribute toward the development of systems for future elections.
“It would be irresponsible of me to spend that amount of taxpayers’ money to develop a system while not having the legislative power to implement it,” Kerslake said.
A future system would likely be developed in collaboration with other states, the commissioners of which are scheduled to meet in the latter half of the year. According to Kerslake, the commission is keen to take from their experience, which in NSW was met with record participation
“If other states are willing participants in working on projects then we might be able to come up with better systems and cheaper systems by working together rather than independently and I certainly hope we can work together with some other electoral commissions to develop those systems,” Kerslake said.
Further consultations with blind and vision impaired groups is also an essential step in the process, said Kerslake, in order to gauge requirements and what technologies they have available in their own homes.
“Once the legislation is in place, we will go ahead to develop a system and we have funds set aside to assist in doing that but we won’t be able to do that in time for the next election,” he said.
The commission’s e-voting efforts follow those of the Victorian Electoral Commission, which which implemented its own system prior to the state election in November last year. The NSW Electoral Commission has also successfully implemented an e-voting system, iVote, used last month by more than 46,000 voters.
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