The NSW govt wants to replace its core iVote software

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The NSW govt wants to replace its core iVote software

Scouring market for options.

The NSW Electoral Commission has asked the market to put forward suggestions for off-the-shelf software that could replace the core of its iVote online voting system.

The core software that underpins iVote is currently provided by Spanish vendor Scytl. The firm was given $1.9 million in 2014 to deliver the software for the 2015 poll, expanding a platform that had been used in a limited capacity for the first time in 2011.

The expansion meant remote citizens (those who live more than 20km from a polling booth), blind and disabled citizens, and those interstate or overseas on election day could submit their vote either online or by phone.

Scytl has been paid up to 2019 to support, develop and maintain the software.

But the NSWEC is looking ahead to the 2019 state general election to figure out whether there's a better solution in the market.

It has asked online voting software providers to put forward proposals for a replacement of the Scytl software.

The agency has already identified two potential options alongside Scytl in what it says is a small market: US-based Everyone Counts, which the NSWEC used for the 2011 election; and the UK's Smartmatic, which provides electronic voting software to Estonia.

"The RFI [request for information] process will give suppliers the opportunity to demonstrate new or innovative solutions that may better meet the needs of the NSWEC," it said in its procurement strategy [pdf].

"Once the NSWEC has understood the solutions being proposed, and has determined to procure commercial software, the RFP [request for proposal] documents can be written to ensure that no solution that meets the NSWEC requirements is unfairly disadvantaged."

It expects to assess responses to its RFI throughout June and July, and then develop its request for proposal for issuance in November. Should it find an appropriate pitch, the NSWEC is aiming to sign a contract with the successful bidder in February next year.

The Scytl software is one of three core components to the online voting platform. The NSWEC said it expects the registration and credentials management systems, as well as its telephone-based verification system - both developed in-house - will remain in place, albeit with improvements made to the platforms.

The agency also expects that it will migrate the registration systems into the NSW government's GovDC data centres along with the crux of its operations.

It said it will, however, need to find new hosting facilities for the core voting and verification systems. The first is currently housed in GovDC by Secure Logic, while the verification system is located in an AC3 facility.

The iVote platform made headlines in 2015 when researchers uncovered holes in the system just days before the state election - findings the NSWEC's then-CIO consistently labelled overblown.

iVote was used by 286,000 voters in the March 2015 poll. Western Australia earlier this year signed up to use the platform in its own March state election.

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