NSW Electoral Commission kicks off e-enrolment for upcoming state election

SmartRoll aims to eliminate the estimated 1.4 million “missing electors” who are eligible to vote in Australia

The NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) is well on the way to completing the first stage of its automatic electoral enrolment project, in an effort to ensure an accurate and up-to-date electoral roll for the impending state election on 26 March this year.

The project, called SmartRoll, was first conceived by the commission in 2009 following the realisation by electoral jurisdictions around the country that there are approximately 1.4 million “missing electors” who are eligible to vote, yet are not enrolled. Additionally, a significant number of electors are not enrolled at their current NSW address.

The new system will seek to reduce the NSW portion of the 'missing' by automatically enrolling eligible NSW residents who are Australian citizens and are over 18 years old, while at the same time assisting a significant proportion of NSW Australians to change their enrolment address details.

A NSWEC spokesperson told Computerworld Australia that an estimated 500,000 electors change their address each year but don’t see it as a priority to change their enrolment details. Through SmartRoll, eligible voters are identified via up-to-date information from a number of NSW and federal agencies, including the AEC, the Federal Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) – in order to determine a person’s citizenship, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) – to provide the latest address information, and a number of state education agencies.

The commission began enrolling eligible voters in October last year and expects that over 40,000 NSW voters will have been enrolled by the election in March.

“In a continuous mode, after the March 2011 state election, SmartRoll automatic enrolment is expected to be at the level of thousands of NSW enrolments per week,” the spokesperson said. “The SmartRoll project will continuously automatically enrol or re-enrol large numbers of NSW electors in the period following the election.”

The commission also conducts local government elections in NSW for which further development work will be needed to modify SmartRoll for those events.

Privacy issues

Legislation was passed in state parliament in 2009, enabling the electoral commissioner to enrol all eligible candidates without an application, should the commissioner be satisfied that the person is eligible to be enrolled for State and Local Government elections.

“That legislation also allows for the collection of elector or potential elector data, from a specified group of agencies and organisations, providing that data is only used for enrolment purposes,” the spokesperson said. “The NSW electoral roll is legislated to be made available to the public, however NSW elector enrolment information is secured by the NSWEC in a manner that assumes that public availability is not allowed and at levels that are equivalent to those applying to the secret ballot voting process.”

As reported by Computerworld Australia, the NSWEC recently followed in the footsteps of the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC), developing an e-voting system, iVote. The new system enables blind, vision-impaired and disabled voters, as well as those living in remote areas and those out of the state on the day, to cast a secret and unassisted vote from home or in other locations using interactive voice recognition by phone or through the internet.

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