Aug 11, 2017

If we have to vote on marriage equality, can’t we do it online?

There is a big problem with the postal plebiscite plans: young people have no idea how to use the post, writes Sam Campbell, director of Scytl, which delivered iVote.


I’m the proud father of a couple of magnificent specimens — school leavers, entering the world, making their way. They did, however, make a minor gaffe recently that had me scratching my head — they had their water cut off. Can’t afford the bills? No. They seem to have missed the parental lesson where I was supposed to impart knowledge of the joys of mail collection — that concept whereby someone comes home from a day on the moors and checks the mailbox on the way in to see if they have a card from a long-time friend, or more realistically an informative missive detailing the impending cut-off of the water supply. I have personally spoken to other parents who are scratching their heads upon learning that they too have neglected to pass on the concept of mail collection. And don’t even ask me to describe the time I saw someone pressing a stamp and wondering why it kept falling off an envelope. It appears that the concept of licking the thing was gone in the mists of time.

So why am I continuing to read statements telling me that the government is going to conduct a plebiscite on marriage equality by post? The price tag seems to have fallen from $170 million for a full plebiscite to a postal survey costing $122 million, but is a postal return the best option?

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9 thoughts on “If we have to vote on marriage equality, can’t we do it online?

  1. Andrew Reilly

    I agree in theory, but I’ve never been able to use the iVote system, as it is only accessible under certain circumstances in NSW, that don’t seem to have applied to me. I have used the IEEE on-line voting systems for years, and really like them, but that leaves me with a question: how do you manage and ensure identity for online voting? I’m not aware of any preexisting relationship between the electoral roll and an internet log-in, so I assume that an extra enrollment process is required. Wouldn’t that be slow and also involve the post? It would also appear to be more difficult to ensure the freedom from coercion that comes with in-person paper voting, but postal voting has that problem too.

    1. Sam

      To manage and ensure identity you might look at a means of registering a-la the iVote system in NSW, based on something-you-know. As for the coercion comment – also something to consider with the postal option as you note. I agree – I’m not aware of a link between an internet login and the electoral roll, so addressing that is not likely to happen in time for the plebiscite.

  2. jmendelssohn

    There is an insurmountable problem in using online voting in this “plebiscite”. It is to be administered by the ABS, the same organisaiton that ran the last Census….

  3. Bill Hilliger

    If we have to vote on marriage equality, can’t we do it online? Not likely, the probability of hacking by the haters would be a distinct probability.

    1. klewso

      Which way is Vlad swinging?

  4. AR

    I was surprised how easily I was able to use iVote for the NSW election whilst overseas because I can’t get mygov to work no matter how many times I reapply.

  5. Raaraa

    Considering the ABS was pushing most to use online census, I could only hope they would have applied what they learned and used it on this postal plebiscite “survey”.

    1. Sam

      Yes it would be good to see anything learnt from the census applied to this survey. The online voting technology used for iVote has stood up in spite of network attack, and is designed to do that from the ground up.

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