The NSW Electoral Commission quietly announced today that the iVote online voting system, which has been used in some form since 2011, will not be used at the 2023 state election.
Intermedium’s contract data shows that the NSWEC has contracted $68 million in ICT goods and services since 2014. This has included $12.9 million in contracts explicitly related to the iVote project.
Spanish company Scytl has been the core service provider of the iVote system since 2014. A Remote Electronic Voting Software contract valued at $1.9 million was signed with the company in 2018 with an expiry date in April 2022.
The Electoral Commissioner determined that technology-assisted voting is not to be used at the planned 25 March 2023 state election, nor any local government or state by-elections that may be held before that date.
The announcement follows the inaugural use of the technology at the December 2021 NSW local government elections. Voters flocked to the system at a time where COVID cases were increasing close to the Christmas holiday period.
The effect of 15.6% of the electorate using iVote had unintended consequences, with the system crashing on election day. The NSWEC later apologised to voters who could not access the system to cast their votes and released a report which cast doubt on the results of some election results.
A Supreme Court decision determining the validity of some of the results in Kempsey, Shellharbour and Singleton councils will be handed down at 3:00pm 17 March 2022.
The NSWEC had announced in January that iVote could not be used until “extensive reconfiguration and testing” had taken place. The most recent announcement confirms it will not be returning for the 2023 election.
The NSW Electoral Commissioner John Schmidt told a parliamentary committee back in May 2021 that the agency was underfunded with urgent cyber security fixes needed. The agency received $4.8 million in funding for these upgrades on 10 March 2022 from the state’s Digital Restart Fund.
The NSWEC’s recent announcement stated the decision not to use iVote at the 2023 election was not influenced by cyber security concerns.
In an October 2020 special report, the NSW Auditor-General stated that the NSWEC had made 13 separate requests totalling $33.8 million for IT projects including data and cyber security improvements. The government approved only a quarter of this amount.
Concerns around the use of electronic voting have been common in NSW and Australia more broadly. A 2014 report by the Federal Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters was not supportive of introducing online voting to Australia.