The US Central Intelligence Agency has been monitoring the use of electronic voting systems in countries like Venezuela, Macedonia and Ukraine because of their vulnerability to vote-rigging.
It is widely believed that Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez resorted to massive cheating in a number of elections there.
There is concern that the Victorian Electoral Commission could be opening the door to the same kind of wrongdoing.
With the Commissioner Steve Tully refusing to provide access to electronic voter preferences data files, which has the effect of denying public review and the right to independently scrutinise elections results,Â concern is mounting that Victoria’s public elections are no longer open and transparent.
Errors can and have readily occurred in the use of data entry by computers in recent elections.Â
The VEC on 2006 destroyed computer preference data that would have allowed verification or the the correctness of the elections results. No backup and or systems were in place to safeguard and protect this information.
Steve Tully, Victoria’s Electoral Commissioner gave evidence last year to the Victorian Parliamentary Committee and when asked if he could produce copies of the preference data for the preliminary count of the 2006 Victorian Western Metropolitan Legislative Council Region Mr Tully speciously claimed that the information was no longer available as the data had been overwritten and that backup copies had not been made.Â
Copies of this information had been requested prior to the conduct of the election. The refusal and inability of the Chief Commissioner to make this information available casts a shadow over the integrity of Victorian elections.Â
The results of the election changed overnight with votes going missing in some counts and the total number of ballot papers recorded between count A and count B indicating 250 votes less in the final count and less then the number of ballot papers issued for the lower house.Â The outcome of the election also changed with Labor Unity member Henry Barlow losing the recount by less then 150 votes to a Greens political party candidate.
Electoral analyst Anthony van der Craats raised concern with the State Parliament over the procedures of the Victorian Electoral Commission and their refusal to provide copies of the preliminary data file for independent analysis and scrutiny.Â
“It is impossible to scrutinise the results of a computerised elections without access to this datafile. It is crucial that this information is published and readily available to public scrutiny.Â The failure of the Victorian Electoral Commission to make this information available undermines public confidence and leaves the system open to allegations of computerised fraud” Mr van der Craats said. The VEC had failed to put in place procedures to ensure that the elections results were independently verified.
Similar concerns have arisen with the 2008 Municipal elections where scrutineers were denied access to the electronic preference data file recording the election results. The Victorian Electoral Commission falsely claimed that the law prevented publication of the vote data even though copies of this data was provided for the City of Melbourne election, access to this information was not provided for other municipalities.
Mr van der Craats has express concern at the failure of the VEC to maintain an open and transparent election process and has called on the State Parliament to legislate to ensure that electronic voting in Victoria is open and transparent and that the detailed preference data files are open to public scrutiny.