NSW shelves iVote system until 'extensive reconfiguration' can occur

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NSW shelves iVote system until 'extensive reconfiguration' can occur

After glitch during local government elections.

NSW’s iVote online voting system will be shelved until further notice after a technical glitch prevented voters from casting votes at local government elections in December.

The NSW Electoral Commission revealed the decision on Monday, with the current system needing “extensive reconfiguration and testing” before it can be used again.

As reported by iTnews, iVote was inaccessible for an unknown number of users on local government election day in December as voters across the state attempted to avoid in-person voting.

According to the NSWEC, almost triple the number of voters used the system in the election compared to any previous election, with 652,983 votes cast over a 13-day period.

A post-mortem [pdf] released last month showed that the glitch “materially impacted” elections in Kempsey, Singleton and the City of Shellharbour.

In a statement on Monday, the NSWEC said iVote should not be used before “extensive reconfiguration and testing” can occur.

The commission said “critical” integration testing with other systems for election management and ballot counting and results would be undertaken, requiring teams to closely collaborate.

“These steps are essential to ensure the system can operate effectively and with integrity under the rules that apply to voting for state and local government elections.”

But it said that funding constraints would meant that the system would not be able to be offered at state or local government by-elections.

“The [commission] is only funded to retain a small team of specialist resources to deliver iVote,” it said.

“There is no backup support available for these specialist capabilities that would enable iVote to be offered at state or local government by-elections in the near future, while also prepping the system for use at the 2023 state election.”

NSWEC has been calling for additional funding to address cyber security concerns with more than 50 electoral systems since April 2021.

In November, electoral commissioner John Schmidt expressed his frustration over four failed funding bids, describing the process to receive investment as “Kafkaesque” and a “circle of hell”.

NSWEC on Monday said that risks from resource constraints and aging election systems were “exacerbated” at present, in part due to the availability of staff due to Covid-19.

It also said it had “initiated proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court seeking a declaration about the validity of the results” in the three elections that were found to be impacted by the glitch.

At the same time, the NSWEC is undertaking a comprehensive review and analysis of the root cause of the problems, it said.

“Finalising the Supreme Court proceedings, completing the iVote system review, and implementing any remediations and improvements, are critical to ensuring the problems that occurred at the December local government elections do not occur again,” it said.

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