The AEC's 'election dashboard' reporting tool was first developed for the 2007 federal election. It was inspired by a tool used by Elections Canada to inform electoral officials on whether aspects of an election were, or were not, going well. The system would signal the status of an issue using a 'traffic light' method: green was 'good'; amber was 'we need to have a look'; red was 'we may have a problem'.
The original AEC version of the dashboard had a slightly different focus. In effect, it was a data-mining tool: it provided all the information that the Canadian system provided and, in addition, allowed the data to be 'mined' to produce reports and identify trends. While the data resources provided by the dashboard assisted the AEC to conduct the 2007 election and evaluate aspects of its election performance, they lacked the immediate effectiveness of the traffic light model.
The dashboard was redeveloped in advance of the 2010 federal election, to update systems and reflect lessons learned in 2007. In particular, the 'traffic lights' were included, so that AEC managers could quickly know what was happening, and where to look for potential problems, at any stage during the election delivery period.
A few red lights were identified in the lead-up to election day in 2010. Pre-poll voting was a good example. In previous elections, all pre-poll votes were treated as declaration votes and counted after election night. Changes to legislation in 2010 meant that pre-poll votes made by electors while in their home divisions would be treated as ordinary votes and counted on the night of the election. The dashboard identified a steep upward trend in the use of pre-poll ordinary votes, letting the AEC know that more staff would be needed to count votes on election night.
Each day, the dashboard brings in data from around 10 other systems, including the roll management system (RMANS); the general enrolment, elections support and information system (GENESIS); the escalation cell for the call centre; and polling staff recruitment and training systems. As well as making the data easier to access by pooling it in one location, the dashboard consolidates the data to produce a holistic picture.
The redeveloped dashboard used in 2010 included data that was not in the 2007 version. For example, it supplied information on issues and complaints being received via the call centre, figures on recruitment and training of polling officials, and information on any backlogs in enrolment processing. The dashboard was accessed by staff through a web-based portal and showed data, trends and graphs on chosen topics, split up by various parameters, such as geographical area. The design of the system provided an interface that was easy to use for first time and experienced users alike, according to post-election feedback.
Initially, the 2010 election dashboard was built to provide information for the Executive Management Group. Once the election was underway, the data was made available to managers through to the divisional office level. In future, the dashboard will be open to all AEC staff.
The AEC is currently evaluating the performance of the dashboard, and looking at potential areas for refinement: for example, improving the usability of the tool, or expanding it to include maps. Feedback from staff who used the dashboard in 2010 has been very positive and has confirmed its ongoing value as an election management tool.