Australian Institute of Criminology

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Electronic voting: benefits and risks

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 224

Russell G Smith

ISBN 0 642 24261 5 ISSN 0817-8542
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, April 2002

Abstract

New areas of fraud have been high on the research agenda of the Australian Institute of Criminology for some time. While much of our research has focused on the difficult issues to do with financial fraud, electoral fraud can also have serious ramifications for the government and the community. Recent investigations into electoral matters, such as the inquiry conducted for the Criminal Justice Commission in Queensland (as it then was), have raised many criminal justice issues to do with the conduct of ballots. The integrity of an electoral system is a fundamental bulwark against corruption and the ability of organised groups within the community to misuse democratic institutions for improper purposes. New technologies can both assist and hinder those wishing to perpetrate electoral fraud. Already many trials have taken place of electronic voting procedures in both the private and public sectors in an attempt to reduce costs, improve voter participation and enhance efficiency in conducting ballots. In the Australian Capital Territory, the Legislative Assembly election held on 20 October 2001 allowed some voters to cast their votes using computers located at polling stations in order to enhance the efficiency of the ballot process. But will electronic voting be subject to the same problems of security and manipulation that have occurred in the context of business transactions? This paper tests the effectiveness of electronic voting against eight essential requirements that any electoral process needs to satisfy in order for elections to be conducted both freely and fairly in modern societies.