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Australia has recently used an Internet voting system as a means to allow interstate, disabled, and overseas voters to participate in elections. The program is similar to that we are familiar with in absentee voting programs that large percentages of Americans already take advantage of. The government of New South Wales contracted with an organization called Everyone Counts to develop a program that would allow these voting groups to participate. The organization is also known for implementing online voting programs for local elections on iPads in Oregon, municipal elections in El Paso, and collecting votes for the Oscars.
During the New South Wales election several online programs were implemented that allowed voters greater access to polls. For the visually impaired voters in the state, phone polling was implemented. Prior to telephone voting, the blind or visually impaired could be disenfranchised by traditional ballots that were difficult or impossible to read. Online voting was also opened to voters who lived over 12.5 miles from the nearest polling place. Internet polling also allowed Australians to participate in their election while overseas.
The initial implementation of online voting in New South Wales was successful by many standards. Close to 2,000 ballots were cast by disabled or illiterate voters within the state. A grand total of 46,864 votes were cast online within the state. 91% of voters eligible to participate online or by telephone cast their ballot. This is an exceptionally high turnout rate but it can be deceptive without understanding that Australia has a fully implemented compulsory voting law that was put in place in 1924. 95% of the votes made available by the New South Wales program were placed online, while 5% were cast over the phone.
Multiple questions have been raised about voters who do not have online access and would be excluded from participating in an internet voting system. The answer is simpler than you may think, get to a computer or pick up a phone. Either option can be conducted securely and efficiently within a precinct similar to those that Americans already use.
In The Next Segment: Taking a look at Utah’s internet voting system for absentees.