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Australian e-voting damned in audit report

Paul Brislen, Editor. 24 January 2018, 7:58 am

Australian election officials are scrambling after the auditor general released a damning report suggesting the public was misled over the security of electronic voting in the 2016 general election.

The investigation discovered a complex series of events around the double-dissolution election, which shortened lead-in time for the rollout of electronic counting of votes, led to the decision to pay Fuji-Xerox A$27 million to manage the process but which required all votes be "manually cross checked" at a cost of A$6.6 million.

According to the report, "The contract with the ICT supplier had not required compliance with the Australian Government IT security framework. The security risk situation was accepted by the AEC [Australian Electoral Commission] but was not made sufficiently transparent." The contract had been awarded without a tender being issued and without reporting processes required by the Australian government being followed.

The report goes on to say the AEC took a "significant risk" by failing to meet the standard security requirements, and was warned by the Australian Signals Directorate, that "security concerns could not be solved by the AEC in time for the federal election".

The fallout from the report is sure to influence thinking on this side of the Tasman about any future electronic voting - a somewhat contentious issue even for the usually benign  ICT world. In 2016 then Associate Local Government Minister, Louise Upston, cancelled a proposed trial of online voting at the next local body elections, citing short time frames and concerns around public confidence and perception of online voting in general.


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