Southern Downs Councillors have called for an overhaul to the way voters lodge their ballots, recommending e-voting for the 2020 local government elections.
Southern Downs Councillors have called for an overhaul to the way voters lodge their ballots, recommending e-voting for the 2020 local government elections. Trevor Veale

Southern Downs council elections online?

ALMOST one third of votes at the March council election were informal, sparking Southern Downs Regional Council to recommend e-voting in future elections.

Councillors this week tabled their submission for the Electoral Commission of Queensland to consider web-based polling for the 2020 elections.

Mayor Tracy Dobie said the submission followed feedback from returning officer Garry Adcock, who recommended postal voting be discontinued due to the large number of informal votes and requests for replacement ballot papers.

Of the 25,254 registered voters who were mailed ballot papers, 6304 were informal, while 5424 voters failed to return ballots altogether.

"The way the ECQ made up the voting form and documentation was quite difficult, and we believe that contributed to the large number of informal votes,” Cr Dobie said.

"It is a standard procedure for council to make a submission to the State Government review of Local Government elections.

"Certainly with this election there was not enough information out there early enough and a lot of people still believed it was walk-up polling booth voting.

"That's why we have recommended ECQ look into electronic voting for future elections.”

The ACT model, one of two models suggested, would have voters lodge ballots at set voting terminals connected to secure servers.

This method would maintain manual marking of the electoral roll, verify votes using an electronic barcode, and allow voters to scan paper forms.

The alternative web-based model would enable voting on any computer connected to a secure website.

Cr Dobie said both options would reduce resources and associated costs, however issues of IT failures, security breaches and community mistrust of the system were still apparent.

"At this past election the privacy concerns came from people being asked to sign the back of the envelope,” Cr Dobie said.

"I think if web-based voting helps to clear the confusion it will also hopefully lower those concerns for privacy people had at this election.

"In the submission we have suggested our libraries serve as facilities for web-based voting so someone can be on hand to assist people placing their votes.”

The council submission also stated they believe local governments have the capacity to run council elections and recommended CEO David Keenan be made returning officer should SDRC become the responsible authority.



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