The Australian Electoral Commission has begun searching for a new postal vote data capture solution in preparation for the next federal election in either 2021 or 2022.
The agency went looking for a “provider to capture data from postal vote applications” on Monday, as part of a request for tender that also supports postal vote printing and mail house services.
Fuji Xerox has supported the AEC's postal vote scanning needs in the past two elections, as well as postal vote printing and mail house services.
The new solution is expected to support in excess of 650,000 postal votes at the next election, though this could be much higher if a COVID-19 vaccine has not been found.
More than 547,000 postal vote applications were captured at the 2019 election, though only 536,000 were valid.
The solution will also support any by-elections and referendums that take place between 2021 and 2026.
Like previous years, the solution will need to capture and process data from paper-based postal vote applications, which will then be securely transferred to the AEC.
But this time the agency is also looking to outsourcing the vetting of postal vote applications to the service provider.
The vetting process is used to check applications for “completeness and correctness” to ensure they are “suitable for data capture” and meet legislative and AEC requirements.
“The vetting process aims to speed up the data capture process by only letting valid applications progress,” tender documents state.
The AEC is also looking for the data capture solution to ensure that it can monitor and track the progress of applications in real-time, which it has not been able to do previously.
Depending on the “degree of innovation” or changes to the target state in any solution proposed, the AEC may request to demonstrate and/or pilot the solution.
“The AEC is particularly interested in finding innovative solutions that provide an efficient and effective way of performing this task,” the AEC said.
The contract, which covers both postal vote application data capture and postal vote printing and mail house services, is valued at up to $9.5 million over the initial three year term.
The tender closes on October 12, with the AEC to enter contracts with the successful tenderers in February 2021.
Earlier this year, the AEC went looking to do away with the paper sheets that are used by polling officials to mark off the names of voters on election day.
It is currently investigating the possibility of operating its electronic certified list system at “100 percent of polling places” in the future.