The Electoral Council of Australia and New Zealand today released a paper on internet voting, with a view to stimulating discussion and debate in the wake of the 2013 federal election.
The chair of the Council, and Australian Electoral Commissioner, Mr Ed Killesteyn, said the starting point for discussing internet voting was to recognise the enduring and robust foundation on which Australia's existing electoral systems are built – both the federal system, as well as at the state and territory level.
"Having a secret ballot, maintaining the integrity of the electoral roll, and being able to participate in open, free and fair elections and referendums are some of the cornerstones of our electoral system," Mr Killesteyn said.
"The discussion paper released today views any move towards internet voting as necessarily being 'evolutionary' in nature, rather than a 'revolutionary' leap."
Mr Killesteyn said the paper explores how internet voting could offer potential improvements in the way elections are managed and delivered in Australia, though it also raises some significant issues for community debate.
"For example, internet voting may have the potential to improve participation and turnout, particularly those who cannot otherwise vote at all, or cannot otherwise vote secretly and personally such as people with disabilities, or people who will be absent from their electorate during an election.
"However, it could disadvantage some older voters or people from lower socio-economic backgrounds or remote locations who may not have ready access to online systems.
"And while the current paper-based process for conducting elections and counting ballots is open and transparent, and actively involves people – including the representatives of political parties and candidates who can act as scrutineers – it is sometimes criticised as being slow and inefficient.
"If electronic systems offer efficiencies and could provide solutions to quicker election results, how would we transition towards internet voting in a way that maintains and improves on Australia's current open, fair and transparent approach to elections?"
Mr Killesteyn said Australia's electoral systems had been evolving since Federation in 1901, and, in the case of some of the states, since the mid-1800s.
"Having discussions on options such as internet voting is part of the ongoing evolutionary nature of our electoral system, and it's one we shouldn't shy away from."