The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is planning to investigate alternative ways of verifying voter identity at polling places to complement electronic certified lists.
Deputy electoral commissioner Jeff Pope told a senate estimates hearing on Tuesday night that the agency had been funded to conduct a “small scoping study with respect to voter verification”.
The study was funded under a $27 million polling place technology package in last year’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, though it was described as relating to “electoral system integrity”.
Pope said that the study would involve the commission looking at the “various options that might be already in use in other electoral commissions around the world or in other industries”.
“[The] study will allow us to consider… how someone may be able to verify their entitlement, or their identity, to vote and how we might be able to automate… some of the process,” he said.
“So potentially instead of having to say your name and address, you may have some verification process that may automate that and, [in the] future, mature and quicken the process.”
Pope used airline boarding passes that are pushed out to people’s smartphones as an example of “one of probably dozens of options that could be explored” as part of the scoping study.
Any solutions identified during the study would be in addition electronic certified lists, which allow polling officials to search and mark off the names of voters on an electronic copy of the electoral roll.
Electronic certified lists (ECLs) have been deployed at 16 electoral events since 2013, including the last three federal elections, with around 4500 devices deployed to polling places in 2019.
Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers told the estimates committee that this would climb to 5000 at the next election – to be held in the second half of this year or in 2022 – and 10,000 by 2024-25.
Last year, the AEC began investigating the possibility of operating ECL devices at 100 percent of polling places – more than 700 polling places – at some point in the future.
Rogers said that the expansion of electronic certified lists would help reduce multiple voting by individuals, which is already “very low” at around 0.01 percent.