The Victorian State Parliament

There is growing public concern for the need to ensure that the conduct of elections by electronic means is open and transparent.

With the increasing use of computer based technology in the counting of election results it is fundamental that proper checks and balances are put in place to maintain public confidence in the electoral process. Computerised counting systems are subject to errors in data entry and voters preference transcription.

There is also a risk of system failure or electoral fraud. With the use of computers in the conduct of elections, the counting and determination of election results is now made in cyber space. The failure of the State and Federal electoral offices to provide copies of detailed electronic preference data prevents the proper scrutiny and independent analysis of the election result.

Copies of the data-file were made available during the 1996 Council elections but denied during the 1999 and 2001 City of Melbourne Council elections

The Australian Electoral Office, - who conducted the Melbourne City Council elections in 1996, 1999 and 2001 - was prepared to make a copy of the data-file available to scrutineers and candidates but was subsequently prevented from doing so by the City Council Officers.

The City of Melbourne had spent over $60,000.00 of ratepayers' money trying to prevent the publication and disclosure of the detailed election results for its 1999 and 2001 Council elections. The Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal on hearing an application under the Freedom of Information legislation, lasting two days, ordered the City of Melbourne to publish and make available the detailed elections results stored in electronic format. The decision of the tribunal was made immediately without reserving its determination.

It is fundamental for public confidence to be maintained the electoral process must be open and transparent and subject to proper scrutiny. There is no legal impediment preventing the disclosure and publication o the election results.

No explanation or justification has been given by the City of Melbourne for refusing to make this information available. No one has ever been held to account for this decision or the expenditure of ratepayers' money.

Amidst growing pubic concern world wide about the conduct of electronic counting of ballots, the elected City Council earlier this year had failed to address this issue, instead they washed their hands and buried their heads in the sand.

The publication and distribution of detailed election results is essential to ensure that the information used to determine the election results is accurate and correct. Without it there is no way in which a scrutineer can fulfil his or her duty.

It's like going to the supermarket cashier with a trolley of goods and being given a receipt for the total amount owing but the receipt does not showing the list of detailed items that make up the total of the bill. Without this information there is no way of verifying that the information s correct.

The solution is simple. Copies of detailed data-files recorded in electronic format can and MUST be made available to scrutineers. This is a relative simple process and would costs less then $1.00 the price f of a disk even less if information was made available on line. A verified and authorised copy of the detailed preference results should also be published, on line, as part of the requirements related to the declaration of the poll.

The onus is now on the Victorian State Government to restore public confidence in the use of electronic equipment in the conduct of Municipal elections.

The State Government must legislate to ensure that the conduct of electronic elections is open and transparent and subject to proper scrutiny.

We the undersigned call on the Victorian State Government to restore public confidence in the electoral process and the conduct of electronic elections by ensuring that.

• The conduct or electronic based elections remain open and transparent.
• Verified copies of electronic data recoding voter preferences and detailed results of electronic elections are made available to scrutineers and the public for independent analysis and scrutiny as part of the election process and prior to the declaration of the poll.
• That information and detailed election results in including voter preferences recorded in electronic format is readily available for public scrutiny and independent analysis.

The State Government must ensure that legislative procedures are in place before the November 2004 Municipal elections.

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The Open and transparent scrutiny of electronic ballots and elections in Victoria petition to The Victorian State Parliament was written by Melbourne Ratepayer's Association and is in the category Government at GoPetition.