Electronic lists - the roll of the future?

Ask a seasoned voter about election day and it is likely they’ll be fond of one or other of the day’s rituals—jostling party workers spruiking their candidate and how-to-vote cards, the familiarity of the local school transformed to a polling place, standing in line to have your name marked on the certified list in exchange for ballot papers, using a trusty pencil under cover of cardboard to number every box below the line to personalise your preference flow, the simple yet affirming action of posting the ballot paper in the ballot box, the aroma from the sausage sizzle and sweet temptation from the cake stall…

These elements will be part of the next election as Australians have come to expect. However, something new will be going on at the 2013 election. The certified list will be loaded to 570 electronic devices and trialled, for the first time in a federal election, at 60 polling places and with over 80 mobile polling teams.

The certified list

The certified list is the official electoral roll used to mark off voters’ names before they vote. The certified list both assures the integrity of the election and flags potential threat.

Each polling place has copies of the certified list of voters for their division, which contains the name, address, date of birth and gender of each enrolled voter. The polling official draws a line between two black arrowhead markings beside the name of each person to indicate that the person has received their ballot papers.

For the 2013 election, 32 950 certified lists will be printed on high-speed laser printers in each state and territory for 150 electoral divisions. Lists, printed on over 16 million A4 sheets of paper, will take a week to complete.

After an election, the AEC electronically scans certified lists to identify apparent non-voters and multiple marks against voters’ names for further investigation. The process involves more than 2.5 billion records on over 16 million scanned pages. Potentially the use of electronic certified lists (ECLs) will minimise the need for scanning.

Electronic lists

An easier search and find

ECLs will mean a quicker process for voters and for AEC polling staff. An easier search and find of voters should reduce queuing and increase efficiency at the polling booth. ECL allows the roll to be searched by division, state or nationally.

In future, the ECL application will integrate with the electoral roll and election systems and enable monitoring of queue times and ballot paper issue. The application includes a special configuration for mobile polling teams and can connect via the 3G network.

With no need for a separate scanning process post-election, identification of apparent non-voting and multiple marks will be quicker. Automated reports will assist ballot paper reconciliation and voter flow monitoring, because the ECL will record the time people are marked off.

At preliminary scrutiny of declaration vote envelopes, ECL devices will help determine whether the vote can undergo further scrutiny and will simplify and speed up look-up and mark-off.

Several layers of physical security and encryption will protect voter details on an electronic certified list and only polling officials and AEC staff will have access to them. The system relies on a dedicated communication network only available to electronic certified list devices.

Post-election evaluation of the ECL trial will analyse impact on staff workload and voter services and help determine where the devices will be used in future electoral events.

The certified list will be loaded to 570 electronic devices and trialled, for the first time in a federal election, at 60 polling places and with over 80 mobile polling teams.

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