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Voting with pencil and paper

Yesterday Australia voted in the Federal Election, for most people that meant lining up at the local school or church, waiting for an official to find your name amongst hundreds of pages of names and hand you two pieces of paper.  You then took both of those ballot papers, one of which was ridiculously large to fit (in my case) 38 Senate party candidates, to a cardboard booth to mark your preferences with a blunt pencil attached to a too short piece of string.

Imagine, just for a moment, a future where technology allows everyone to vote with an electronic device.  That device can either be in the home or even portable and carried in your pocket.  That same technology could also allow you to manage your banking without going into a branch, manage a share portfolio without talking to a stock broker, check your government benefits without visiting Certrelink, send messages to friends and colleagues and even make phone calls away from a landline.

Hold on, you say, it’s 2016 and we can do all of that stuff on our computer, tablet or smart phones.  All of that stuff except vote!  Why are we still voting with pencil and paper, a system that has no safeguards against mistakes (in my electorate alone there are over 4,800 informal votes out of 88,400 counted so far) a system that takes an enormous work force to the count and collate those votes. This is the way voting was done 100 years ago, even 20 years ago there wouldn’t have been much alternative to pencil and paper, but in 2016 this is ridiculous!

This morning, the day after voting, we are being told it may take weeks to finalise the election result as pre-polling and postal votes are counted.  In this day and age we should be able to tally all results electronically and announce the winning candidates within minutes of the 6PM close of voting.