iVote: Is this the future of voting in Australia?

The New South Wales government is doing something a little different with this year’s upcoming state election: it’s letting some of its voters use the Internet to submit the vote.

Most people won’t be able to use iVote this year, however, as the NSW government requires you match the following criteria:

  • your vision is so impaired, or you are otherwise so physically incapacitated or so illiterate, that you are unable to vote without assistance,
  • you are unable to vote without assistance or have difficulty voting at a polling place because you have a disability (within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977),
  • your real place of living is not within 20 kilometres, by the nearest practicable route, of a polling place; or
  • you will not be in New South Wales throughout the hours of polling on polling day.

Those who don’t match any of those will still have to get themselves to a polling booth on March 26th.

But just because you can’t take the iVote, doesn’t mean you can’t see what it’s going to look like as the NSW government has put in place a demonstration system, giving us a possible sneak peek into this new electronic voting platform.

So what’s it like?

Unsurprisingly, iVote is actually very similar to what it’s like when you vote in real life, except you don’t get the crummy half broken cardboard booth and tied-down-with-white-twine pen.

Good luck fitting the entire ballot on one screen. We zoomed out all the way, made the text tiny, and it still didn’t fit on one screen.

The format is still big, and you still have what is commonly referred to as the “tablecloth” ballot paper, albeit a digital one. Just because you don’t have to spread out one giant sheet of paper doesn’t mean that you won’t be scrolling from left to right and up and down.

Vote above the line or below the line.

Much like in real life, you can vote above the line quickly, or vote below the line and choose the politcians in the exact order you’d like. Numbering is done by double clicking the box of the nominee in the order of preference. If you make a mistake, you can hit the “Undo last choice” button in the bottom left or “Clear all choices” next to that.

At the end of the voting process, you’re given a screen to show what your choices were in case you’ve made a mistake.

For what it’s worth, iVote is a fairly easy system to use, but its usability is hampered by the massive voting paper, something that still confuses paper voters today.

Regardless, iVote is a step forward for the NSW state government, bringing a voting system to people who have trouble reaching an election booth in a convenient manner. While we wish the system was open to more people, it does show that parts of our government are at least thinking of an electronic future for voting.