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2050

Societal Reform

Voting

Australia's voting system is largely good, so all I would suggest are some tweaks.

Age of Voting

I would lower the earliest voting age to 16. I would also make voting between the ages of 16 to 22 non compulsory. That should give one or two Federal elections where a young person would have the choice of whether to vote or not - I would use that opportunity to educate and encourage them to do so.

I would also make voting over the age of 75 non-compulsory. I am not trying to disenfranchise the elderly - far from it - just giving them a choice. I would still urge them to participate in the democratic process - if they want to.

Voting

While in person voting on polling day is a  great experience - democracy in action - it always seems to me to be open to the potential of a devious person putting in multiple votes. A person could roll up at multiple polling booths in the electorate and get the chosen name of the person they are impersonating marked off on the paper voting roll. At present in Australia there is no check of their identity, it is an honour system. A person can then vote - at each polling booth they go to. Post election it can be (and will be) found out that a person claiming to be the person of the chosen name has voted multiple times but by that time the votes are already in and can't be identified to be retrieved and removed from the count. There would probably be a police investigation but how are they going to find the person that submitted the multiple votes?

It is a tribute to Australians and our political parties that there is apparently (though I have not seen the figures to confirm this) little voter fraud. However perhaps some tweaking would still be worthwhile to make sure this remains the case.

There should at least be an electronic voter roll to be marked off - this is the 21st century after all! So that would ping anytime it was detected that a voter was trying to submit a vote under a name that has already been used for voting for that election. The second and subsequent person trying to vote under a name would have to prove that they are who they say they are before their vote was accepted. That is a partial solution, as if it is the first vote that is fraudulent there would be no way of extracting that fraudulent vote from the other submitted legitimate votes.

The next level is that everyone has to prove who they are prior to voting. So driver's license or other identity card. I know identity cards have been problematic in the past - so this requirement should only be considered if it was determined that there was a significant problem with voter fraud in the future that needed to be fixed. That is not the case at present.

An alternative is to go to a complete mail in system or a system where the person completes the voting ballots at home before mailing it in or dropping it off at a polling place.  The voting slip is put into an envelop which does not identify the voter. This envelop is then put into a second envelop, which has been preregistered to the voter, signed by the voter and submitted. This allows all attempts at multiple voting under a single voters name to be detected before the vote is accepted into the count and those votes set aside to be investigated to determine which is the legitimate vote - probably by signature matching. The legitimate vote (still contained in the unopened first envelop) is then included in the count and the illegitimate attempt sent to the police to investigate. It would slow down the process of vote counting as there is this additional step in the process so the result of the election would not be known on election night.

I suggest the use electronic scanning and character recognition software for paper votes to count the votes. It is a mature technology that is used widely in other settings and would speed the counting process while maintaining the added security of having the original paper vote available if a recount was necessary in a tight contest. 

In the future there may be a secure way of remote electronic voting (over the internet) so I wouldn't discount that possibility. The trouble with electronic voting is that if the votes or voting process is in some way compromised there may be no opportunity for a recount as there is with paper based voting. The possibility of something going wrong, accidentally or maliciously, and the ability to recover from that would need to be considered in any proposed set up of electronic voting.

Also see the suggested changes to the voting system for the Senate from the Political Reform page.

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