Lessons from the iVote meltdown in Australia

This weekend, Australians will vote in the country’s federal elections. The process will likely be seamless, transparent, and punctuated by countless civic-minded barbecues affectionately known as sausage sizzles. This is how elections generally go in Australia, but for those in New South Wales, that wasn’t the case late last year.

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The state had encouraged a significant number of voters to move to an internet-voting system called iVote. In December, it melted down so badly that the New South Wales Electoral Commission not only discontinued its use but also asked a court to nullify the results of three city-council elections. It was an embarrassing failure for e-voting…

In the aftermath, the state’s electoral commission used a simulation to calculate that three city-council races could have been flipped by the disenfranchised e-voters. Teague told me that this was a “very conservative estimate.” Her own analysis, which used roughly 1,000 times more simulations, identified 39 races whose outcomes were potentially affected. But without a paper trail, there’s no way to know for sure.

The collateral damage was significant. In March, a judge agreed to throw out the results of the three races and order a redo. It’ll cost the state roughly $350,000 to administer the new races and at least $35,000 in legal fees. The council will also have to reimburse candidates for the cost of running again. The candidates, for their part, aren’t looking forward to hustling through another grueling campaign.

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