Submissions‎ > ‎

Transparency and accountability

Change that counts

Submission to the Victorian State Parliament

Electoral Matters Committee

by Anthony van der Craats

 

May 27, 2010



Statement of Principle

Open and transparent systems permit everyone to make informed choices, and give everyone access to information in an easily understood format

Accountability is acting responsibly and being answerable for actions taken

A lack of openness, transparency and insufficient accountability creates the conditions in which corruption flourishes

The Internet is the ideal medium for cost effective delivery of information maintaining open and transparent government (eGovernance)

 


Transparency

Previously public elections were counted in the open. scrutineers were able to fully observe the collation transfer and tabulation of votes.  Information related to the number of votes issued at each polling place was readily available and as a result public confidence in the electoral process was maintained with its integrity not questioned.

Public elections in Victoria are no longer open and/or transparent.

 Instead the election count is held in cyber space, hidden behind a computer screen and an electronic network. Information required to facilitate independent review and confirmation of the election results being withheld.

The Victorian Electoral Commission in the rush to adopt new technology and to justify their expenditure in software development and other technical “innovations” has failed to ensure that elections are subject to proper scrutiny, accountability and transparency. Their procedures and practices they have adopted have not been given proper consideration or review.  The Victorian Electoral Commission has taken short cuts and forsaken due diligence in its conduct of public elections and in the process undermined or prevented effective scrutiny of the ballot.

Poor quality of the data-entry, inadequate counting processes and the refusal of the Electoral Commission to readily provide access to vital information and it’s lack of due diligence has resulted in a number of errors and omissions which seriously undermined public confidence in elections oin Victoria .

The availability and publication of information essential to the proper scrutiny of the election was not forthcoming, hidden from public view or not collated in a timely fashion. The Victorian Electoral Commission actively pursued a policy of avoidance, non-disclosure, lack of accountability and review. The quality of information that was published was of poor quality, lacking detail, false and misleading.

The Victorian Electoral Commission demonstrated, on many occasions, that it was unwilling or incapable of self regulation in order to ensure that public elections are open and transparent.   

In 2006 the Victorian Electoral Commission took over three-months, and required an application under the Freedom of Information Act before it was prepared to make public information that should have been readily available though-out the election process.  Information that, had it been available at the time of the election as requested, would have avoided the serious errors and omissions that occurred.


In 2008 the Victorian Electoral Commission ignored the recommendations of the Parliamentary Electoral Matters Committee, refused to undertake a preliminary sort of ballot papers prior to data entry in respect to local government elections and once again demonstrated that it was unwilling to publish vital information and statistics pertaining to the conduct of Municipal election.  Whilst limited information was made available for the City of Melbourne elections, other municipalities were denied access to the detailed statistical data and detailed election results.  

Further the Victorian Electoral Commission undertook a computerised data-entry process in conducting the City of Melbourne Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor ‘Leadership team’ ballot denying more effective opportunity for proper scrutiny of the ballot.  There was no justification or need to warrant the use of a computerised counting system for the City of Melbourne Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor’s election.  The number of scrutineers required to properly oversee the conduct of the count would have been 20 scrutineers per candidates team which if applied would have further complicated the process required to undertake the count.   Even then Scrutineers would have been limited in their opportunity to properly scrutinise the count. Similar comments and concerns existed as a resulted of the Commission’s Conduct of other Municipal elections where the results of the election were determined by a transcribed data-entry process which was no longer open or transparent. A number of requests for review by the Court of Disputed Returns occurred as a result as the lack of transparency and the refusal of the Victorian Electoral Commission to provide copies of essential and relevant information.

In addition there are serious concerns related to the security and access to electronic data which is no longer subject to review and proper scrutiny.  

The Victorian Electoral Commission failed to ensure that data recorded in the primary count of the 2006 State election was protected and back copies of electronic data files maintained. 

The Chief Electoral Commissioner when requested to provide a copy of the data files pertaining to the primary count of the Western Metropolitan Region indicated he was unable to do so stating that the data has been over written further preventing independent review and scrutiny of the conduct of the election.

In order to address these issues and avoid a repeat of the mistakes of the past more consideration needs to be given to the regulations and procedures governing the conduct of election so as to ensure that relevant information is readily available and subjected to independent review and scrutiny.


Statistical Information.

The Victorian Electoral Commission should be required to publish the following statistical data

1.       Pre-polling: The total number of ballot papers issued and recorded at pre-polling stations per electorate on daily basis.

2.       Postal votes: The number of Postal ballot papers issued and returned per electorate on a daily basis.

3.       Absentee votes:  The number of Absentee ballot papers issued per electorate at each voting centre/polling place within 24 hours of the close of the poll.

4.       Section votes:  The number of Section ballot papers issued per electorate at each voting centre/polling place as part of the polling place return.

5.       Ordinary votes: The number of Ordinary votes issued and returned recording the first preference for each candidate at each polling place including the number of informal or spoilt ballot papers.

The above information should be readily available and published on the Electoral Commission’s Internet site in order to ascertain the total number of ballot papers expected and accounted for, removing any ambiguity or uncertainty over these votes. This information should be published without delay and in a timely fashion.  Polling place return data should be available on election night and verified prior to the conclusion of counting.  Any changes, omissions or corrections should be documented and reported.

The above statistical information provides a valuable check digit/trial balance to ensure that ballot papers are not illegally added or removed from the count.

Victorian Local Government regulations require the electoral authority to reconcile the number of votes recorded with the number of votes issued.  The same regulatory provision should also apply to the State Election.

In the lead-up to the 2006 State Election I had requested in correspondence with the Victorian Electoral Commission the above information.  The Commission, who had at first indicated they would provide the information as requested, failed to do so.  Had this data been available and had the Commission applied due diligence the errors and omissions in the 2006 North Metropolitan Legislative Council election would have been identified and corrected prior to the determination of the first count.

In 2006 the total number of ballot papers recorded for the Western Metropolitan Legislative Council electorate did not tally with the polling place statistical information or the total number of ballot papers associated with the corresponding Legislative Assembly electorates. The results of the election changed between the primary count and the secondary count.  The difference in the results and outcome of the election was less than the variance in the total number of votes recorded. The fact that the total number of ballot papers had changed between the primary count and the secondary count has not been fully explained.  Copies of the primary count preference- data files used to determine the results of the election have been destroyed. (See comparison summary table published below)

Electronic counting of votes

Open Source Code:

 

In 2004 The Victorian Electoral Commission charged the City of Melbourne $200,000 for “software development”. What costs and services were provided for this sum is not clear.  Presumably the same software code was used to service the 2006 State Election and the 2008 Municipal election.  Although the City of Melbourne paid for the development of software used by the Victorian Electoral Commission they do not maintain any copyright or ownership over the code.

The Australian Capital Territory has published the software code they use as ‘Open Source” helping to ensure that the process and conduct of the election is open and transparent.  The Victorian Parliament should consider adopting the A.C.T policy as part of its commitment to ensuring open and transparency in the software code used to tabulate the results of computerised count.  The software code could be”Open Sourced” and published as part of the United Nations ACE project.

Transcribed preference vote data-entry.

Single member electorates


Single member electorates (State and Municipal, including the City of Melbourne Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor “Leadership team”) should be counted manually with or without the assistance of a note/paper counting machine.  There is no justification, need or merit in counting single member electorates by a transcribed preference vote data-entry process. Any saving in man hours is off-set by the additional cost of technical hardware, support and the loss of open transparency and reduced scrutiny of the ballot.

If single member electorates are to be counted by a transcribed data-entry process then it is essential that the ballot papers are pre-sorted into primary votes prior to the data entry process and that copies of the preference data files are readily available to scrutineers and published by the electoral commission on the Internet (See below)

Multi-member electorates


The use of computer technology and a data-entry process in the counting of the ballot is justified. In particular in relation to Local government elections where a count back procedure is implemented in order to fill casual vacancies.  However the current procedures and processes implemented by the Victorian Electoral Commission are in need of serious review in order to facilitate independent analysis and scrutiny.


Pre-sorting of ballot papers into primary preferences.


Ballot papers should be pre-sorted prior to any preference data-entry process.

The pre-sorting of ballot papers allows scrutineers to focus on a particular set of ballots that may be of interest as this will also provide a further check digit and means of ensuring that all ballot papers are properly accounted for and that no ballot papers are omitted or excluded from the count.

The process where ballot papers are data-entered in a random fashion seriously restricts the opportunity for scrutineers to deploy limited resources.  Pre-sorting of ballot papers into primary preferences provides more structure and opportunity for scrutiny ensuring the counting process is open and transparent. The time and resources to undertake a preliminary manual sorting of the ballot papers is minimal and can be undertaken as part of the preparation process in parallel to the data entry process.

The benefits of a pre-sorted ballot prior to data-entry of preferences far out way the shortcuts and any savings in time that may be achieved in avoiding this important step. More importantly it facilitates the effective and proper scrutiny of the ballot without the need to facilitate excessive numbers of scrutineers to oversee the counting process.

Copies of preference data files

 

It is essential that copies of the preference data-files in electronic format are readily available to the public and subject to independent analysis and review.  It is impossible to properly scrutinise an electronic count without access to this information. A certified copy of the data-files in electronic format MUST be published as part of the declaration process.

In 2006 The Victorian electoral Commission failed to provide copies of the preference data files during the conduct of the election. The Victorian Election Commission only provided access to this information two months after the election in response to an application made under the provision of the Freedom of Information Act.  Even then the Commission did not provide a full set of data files as copies associated with the preliminary primary count for Northern Metropolitan, Southern Metropolitan and Western Metropolitan regions.

The Victorian Electoral Commissioner on questioning by the Parliamentary Electoral Matters Committee stated that copies of the preference had been destroyed as part of the second data-entry count process (See below for further discussion on this point)

In 2008 copies of the preference data files for the City of Melbourne were made available to scrutineers but denied to other municipalities.

 


Data-Backup and security of electronic preference data-files

 

It is essential that copies of electronic data files are protected against unauthorised access and/or accidental or deliberate destruction. A secured process of data backup must be established.

There is serious concern that the Victorian Electoral Commissioner may have deliberately misled the parliament in his submission and evidence presented to the Parliamentary Electoral Matters Committee.

Preference data-files

The Chief Electoral Commissioner when requested to provide a copy of the data files pertaining to the primary count of the Western Metropolitan Region claimed that he was unable to do so stating, that the data has been over written further preventing independent review and scrutiny of the conduct of the election.

If the statements provided by the Chief Electoral Commissioner are true then it raises further concern as to the Commission's data management and backup processes, which appear to be non-existent or inadequate? It also necessitates the need for comprehensive review or the software currently in use to ensure that information and data is not destroyed or deleted without backup copies being made.

The specious deletion of the preference data files pertaining to the primary count has prevented opportunity for full and comprehensive independent analysis and review of the election process. 

Copies of the electronic preference data-files were requested prior to the commencement of data-entry. 

The failure of the Commission to provide copies of the data-files, as requested, further undermined confidence in the conduct and management of the election leaving the commission open to the allegations of a cover-up, denial and avoidance and incompetence.

Given the seriousness of this issue it is recommended that the Committee investigates further the back-up processes that were in place during the 2006 State election and reason as to why copies of the preliminary data-files were not backed up and retained as a matter of course and due diligence. 

The Electoral Matters Committee should seek evidence from the Victorian Electoral Commission’s System administrator and or IT manager to determine if backup copies of the data files were made and if not why not?  Steps need to be taken to ensure that the data is protected and proper backup procedures are implemented

 


Security and Scrutiny of Electronic Voting Kiosks

 

On November 24, 2006 Glenda Frasier in a media dispatch indicated that the VEC had accessed the voting data-files recorded on the Electronic Voting Kiosks prior to the close of voting. No security procedures or scrutineers were present. The Chief Commissioner, Steve Tully, in his submission to the Parliamentary Committee claimed that the information referred to in Ms Frasier’s email related to “dummy data” in spite of the fact that the data recorded on the Electronic Voting Kiosks was live election data. The Chief Commissioner then went on and stated that three Commission Officials had accessed the data without the presence of appointed scrutineers.

The committee needs to investigate this issue further and should seek evidence from Ms Glenda Frasier as to the validity of her email amidst concern that the Chief Commissioner may have misled the parliament in his report.

Tighter regulations and control must be imposed to secure the integrity of Electronic Voting Kiosk data.  Seals need to be placed on all Electronic Voting Kiosks and any electronic means of accessing the data files.

The data recording device needs to be secure and sealed in such a way so as to ensure that there is no unauthorised access of the data files in the absence of duly appointed scrutineers. There should be no wireless data access option.  A closed network system would need to be verified and secure external backup procedures be implemented.

The design and security of Electronic Voting Kiosks needs to ensure that data is protected and appropriate fail safe backup options available.  This can be achieved by implementing a “write-once”/ “read-only” optical drive and or raid configuration of the data-files.

It is recommended to the committee that they should undertake further review and consideration of the Voting Kiosk system security.

 

ISO certification

The parliament needs to ensure that the process and administration of the Victorian Electoral Commission is subject to review and certification in accordance with recognised ISO standards. The review should include all aspects of administration, security and management.  Current certification of software in use is inadequate as it is limited to partial modules and does not cover the system as a whole.   The parliament needs to ensure that any in-house software development is properly managed and subject to a comprehensive project management review as outline in “Prince2” project management procedures.

 


 

Accountability

Oversight by the state Ombudsman Department


Currently the Victorian Electoral Commission is exempt from review and oversight by the Victorian State Ombudsman.

Although the Victorian Electoral Commission is subject to review by the Victorian Privacy Commissioner and the State Auditor General the administration of the Victorian Electoral Commissioner of the Victorian Ombudsman is denied.  Abuses in administration and Freedom of Information are not subjected to proper independent oversight.

 The State Ombudsman is prevented from reviewing administrative procedures and actions of the Victorian Electoral Commission.  Allegations of a serious nature are not properly dealt with by an independent and non-political process other then limited opportunity for judicial administrative review.

Recommendation:  That the Victorian State Ombudsman Act be amended to ensure that the Victorian Electoral Commission is subject to review by the office of the Ombudsman in administrative matters.  Further that complaints of harassment outlined below by the Chief Commissioner are referred to the State Ombudsman for independent review.

 


Threats, harassment and acts of intimidation by the Chief Electoral Commissioner


I wish to express serious concern in relation to ongoing acts of harassment and intimidation by the Victorian Electoral Commission and in particular acts of harassment by the Victorian by the Chief Electoral Commissioner.

In the lead-up to and following the 2006 Victorian State election and the 2008 Victorian Municipal elections the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mr.  Steve Tully, in an attempt to deflect and prevent criticism in the way the State and Municipal elections were conducted,  Mr Tully made a number of false and misleading statements, harassed, threatened and intimidated members of the public who had legitimate concerns and complaints in the way public elections are conducted in Victoria.  Mr Tully had on a number of occasions exceeded his authority and obligations in pursing his conduct of harassment. 

Mr Tully’s actions have been a deliberate attempt to deflect criticism and intimate witnesses to the Victorian State Parliamentary Electoral Matters Committee. 

Normally such complaints would be subject to review by the Victorian State Ombudsman, However the Victorian Electoral Commission is currently exempt from administrative review by the State Ombudsman and as such the acts of the Chief Electoral Commission are not subject to review by the ombudsman.

On 3 July 2007 The Victorian Government Solicitors Office, Janie Hebiton, issued a threatening and intimidating letter acting on a instructions by the Victorian Electoral Commission following my application for information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act in relation to the conduct of the 2006 State Election. The Victorian Electoral Commissioner had made a false and vexatious complaint to the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office.  At the time of the complaint I was residing outside of Australia.  

The Chief Electoral Commissioner was aware of my intention to make a complaint and submission to the Victorian State Parliament in relation to the Conduct of the 2006 State election.  The Commission’s actions were vexatious in that there was no case to answer and the complaint had no merit or substance. I had notified the Victorian Governments Solicitor’s Office of this fact and express my concern that the actions of the Commission was an abuse of authority arising from a number of complaints I had made in relation to the conduct of the 2006 State election.  The Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office did not pursue the complaint. 


In July 2008 I returned to Australia with the intention of making a further submission to the Victorian State Parliament Electoral Matters Commission in relation to the Victorian Electoral Commission’s conduct of the 2006 State Election.

Whilst attending this meeting I was during the hearing approached by a member of Victorian Electoral Commission’s staff who handed me a letter personally addressed and signed by the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mr Steve Tully, in respect to my non-enrolment status.  I expressed my concern at the time and showed a copy of the letter to members of the Electoral Matters Committee and Mr Mark Roberts, Committee Secretariat, as I considered this to be further harassment by the Victorian Electoral Commission and a direct act of intimidation by the Chief Electoral Commission arising from my submission and evidence presented to the Parliamentary Committee. 

In November 2008, I had attended a public meeting in relation to the conduct of the City of Melbourne Municipal election. At this meeting I had raised my concern in relation to the proposed method of counting the vote and requested that the Commission undertake a preliminary distribution of the vote based on first preference votes prior to transcribing preference data-entry of ballot papers.  In doing so I expressed concern at the limitations imposed in relation to the scrutiny of the ballot.  I also pointed out to the Returning Officer the recommendations made by the Victorian Parliamentary Electoral Matters Committee in relation to the review of the 2006 State election and the need to undertake a preliminary distribution of preferences prior to any data-entry of the vote.  In addition concern was raised as to the merit or justification in undertaking a computerised counting of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor’s election with a request that the City of Melbourne “Leadership team” ballot be counted manually so as to ensure that the process was open and transparent and subject to proper scrutiny of the ballot. Similar concerns were expressed and supported by Mr Ray Collins who also requested that a there be a preliminary distribution of first preferences and that the Lord Mayor “Leadership team” election be counted manually. The retuning officer at the direction of the Chief Electoral Commissioner refused to act on the request.

The day following this event I was somewhat  concerned and alarmed that the Chief Electoral Commission has issued a false statement  alleging that that members of the Victorian Electoral Commission were subjected to threats and bullying which required police intervention.

The statements made by Mr. Tully and members of other members of Staff of the Commission had a negative impact on the candidature of Mr. Peter McMullin and Mr. Tim Wilson’s election campaign.

There was no act of bulling or harassment as claimed by Mr. Steve Tully, Chief Electoral Commissioner.

·         Mr Steve Tully's accusations were false and not supported by the facts.

·         Mr Tully was not present at the briefing in question.

Having spoken to a number of people present at the meeting all stated that Mr Tully's statement is a gross over-reaction to criticism at the way in which the VEC elections are to be counted.


The Chief Commissioner misused and abused his position of authority.

At no time had staff been subjected to any threats and/or any act that warranted or required police presence. Mr. Tully's statement calling for police intervention was a further act of intimidation and harassment against his critics and an abuse of his authority.

Information obtained under freedom of information indicated that there was no written complaint made by the retuning officer for the City of Melbourne elections.

Mr. Tully failed to contact myself or Mr. Collins in order to ascertain the veracity or validity of any of any compliant.

The actions and  of the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mr Tully, had compromised the independence of the Victorian Electoral Commission and brought into question the professionalism and integrity of the Commission’s staff. 

There were no grounds or justification to Mr Tully's statement or his accusations.

The reason behind Mr Tully's emotive outburst is simple, Mr. Tully had come under serious criticism in relation to his conduct of the 2006 State election along with concern that he may have deliberately mislead the parliament in his evidence given to the State Parliamentary committee on Electoral matters.

Mr Tully had cut corners and in the process had made a number of serious mistakes during the conduct of the 2006 State election.

Under the terms of the Local Government Act and regulations the Returning Officer is required to preliminary sort ballot papers into primary votes which in turn are used to reconcile the number of votes pertaining to the election as part of the process of scrutiny of the ballot.

There was and is no merit or justification for a computerised counting of the Lord Mayoral ‘leadership team’ ballot.  A majority of candidates had supported calls for the ballot to be counted manually so that it could be subject to proper scrutiny.

The Victorian Parliament in reviewing the conduct of the 2006 State Election recommended that the VEC undertake a preliminary pre-sort ballot papers into primary votes, as is the case with Federal elections.  Mr Tully chose to ignore the parliament's recommendation and the request made by candidates’ representatives and others. Mr Tully directed Mr Bill Lang, City of Melbourne's Returning Officer, to reject the request for the preliminary sorting of ballot papers undermining the independence of the appointed Returning Officer.

The actions of the State Electoral Commissioner are a further example of harassment and intimidation and should be subject to independent review by the Office of the State Ombudsman.


Summary Statistics of information published by the Victorian Electoral Commission

1. Summary of upper house











Recount statistics – Final results











(published December 14, 200606:19)






















Region

Formal

Informal

Total

Updated

 

Tbl 1

Tbl 2

Tbl 3

Tbl 4

Tbl 5

Eastern Metropolitan

375947

12179

388126

12/12/2006

17:32


0

57

-87


Eastern Victoria

379201

12625

391826

12/12/2006

18:55


0

422

420


Northern Metropolitan

360149

21730

381879

14/12/2006

06:19


-6454

506

-1311


Northern Victoria

365391

15426

380817

12/12/2006

19:03


0

201

-497


South Eastern Metropolitan

365547

20200

385747

12/12/2006

18:23


0

293

108


Southern Metropolitan

361805

11420

373225

12/12/2006

19:45


0

-441

-445


Western Metropolitan

374411

25075

399486

14/12/2006

03:57


-478

-129

1607

-246

Western Victoria

394478

14588

409066

14/12/2006

05:03


268

583

832













2. Summary of upper-house











 

Provisional Primary count statistics











 (published December 12, 2006 19;45)






















Region

Formal

Informal

Total

Updated

 

Tbl 1

Tbl 2

Tbl 3

Tbl 4

Tbl 5

Eastern Metropolitan

375947

12179

388126

12/12/2006

17:32

0


57

-87


Eastern Victoria

379201

12625

391826

12/12/2006

18:55

0


422

420


Northern Metropolitan

366605

21728

388333

12/12/2006

18:22

6454


6960

5143


Northern Victoria

365391

15426

380817

12/12/2006

19:03

0


201

-497


South Eastern Metropolitan

365547

20200

385747

12/12/2006

18:23

0


293

108


Southern Metropolitan

361805

11420

373225

12/12/2006

19:45

0


-441

-445


Western Metropolitan

374982

24981

399964

12/12/2006

18:03

478


349

2085

232

Western Victoria

394556

14242

408798

12/12/2006

17:31

-268


315

564













3. Summary of upper-house











count statistics (xml data file)











 

(published December 12, 200616;49)






















Region

Formal

Informal

Total

 

 

Tbl 1

Tbl 2

Tbl 3

Tbl 4

Tbl 5

Eastern Metropolitan

375390

12679

388069



-57

-57


-144


Eastern Victoria

378374

13030

391404



-422

-422


-2


Northern Metropolitan

358877

22496

381373



-506

-6960


-1817


Northern Victoria

363962

16654

380616



-201

-201


-698


South Eastern Metropolitan

363814

21640

385454



-293

-293


-185


Southern Metropolitan

360202

13464

373666



441

441


-4


Western Metropolitan

373842

25773

399615



129

-349


1736

-117

Western Victoria

392893

15590

408483



-583

-315


249













4. Summary of lower house











count statistics (xml data file)











(published December 12, 2006 16:49)






















Region

Formal

Informal

Total

 

 

Tbl 1

Tbl 2

Tbl 3

Tbl 4

Tbl 5

Eastern Metropolitan

372625

15588

388213



87

87

144



Eastern Victoria

375024

16382

391406



-420

-420

2



Northern Metropolitan

362715

20475

383190



1311

-5143

1817



Northern Victoria

365794

15520

381314



497

497

698



South Eastern Metropolitan

366008

19631

385639



-108

-108

185



Southern Metropolitan

361292

12378

373670



445

445

4



Western Metropolitan

372518

25361

397879



-1607

-2085

-1736


-1853

Western Victoria

391684

16550

408234



-832

-564

-249














5. Lower-house Final results











Region

Formal

Informal

Total

 

 

Tbl 1

Tbl 2

Tbl 3

Tbl 4

Tbl 5

Western Metropolitan

374840

24892

399732



246

-232

117

1853


 

 

The above statistical tables are based on the VEC's published results

Summary data. (Total vote - including formal and informal)

 

1. The first table is the VEC's final results for the upper-house (including the recount of Northern Metropolitan, Western Metropolitan and Western Victoria Regions)

2. The second table records the summary statistics following the VEC's upper-house provisional count (Note the difference in the total number of votes)

3. The third table is the latest published upper-house summary data provided in the VEC's xml data feed.

4. The fourth table is the comparative lower-house votes as reported in the latest VEC xml data feed - These are the final results (Again note the difference in the total number of votes)

5. The fifth table is the comparative lower-house votes as reported in VEC data published on their web site - Western Metropolitan Region only.

Note the difference of 478 in the total number of Votes between the primary count and the secondary count in Western Metropolitan Region. The results of the election had changed between the primary and secondary counts where the difference in outcome was less than 150 votes

This information highlights concerns about the quality of the VEC data collection process. Whilst the allocation of votes may change the “total number of votes” recorded between the primary count and the secondary count should not change. Votes went missing and have not been fully accounted for. 


Extract from previous submission

Conduct of the Victorian State Election, November 25, 2006

 

The 2006 Victorian State Election was a historical occasion for the state of Victoria as it saw the first election of members of the Legislative Council elected by a system of proportional representation.

Unfortunately this historic event was seriously marred by the mismanagement and poor conduct of the election and the counting of the elections results.

The conduct of the 2006 Victorian State Election was one of the worst managed and administered public elections in recent times, highlighting a number of serious problems that exist with the Victorian Electoral Commission. The problems are not due to a lack of finances and resources but one associated with poor management practices, and a lack of due diligence in internal controls over management.

Information required to ensure the transparency of the conduct and counting of the election was not readily made available or published in a timely fashion so as to allow for an independent analysis, public review and or proper scrutiny.

With the advent of the internet, and the adoption of electronic process in the conduct of the election much more can and should have been done to ensure that all statistical information, including the publication of polling place returns, postal, absentee and pre-polling vote statistics for all electorates were readily available prior to the data-entry, tabulation and counting of the ballot.

Copies of electronic data-files recording voters' preference data (preliminary and final counts) should have also been published so as to allow for independent analysis, review and proper scrutiny of the ballot prior to the tabulation and calculation of the elections results

Access to statistical information prior to Election Day

Postal voting and pre-polling ballot papers statistics

 

In previous elections, both state and local government, statistical information on the number of postal and pre-polling ballot papers that had been issued and returned for each electorate was provided and published on a daily basis in the lead-up to polling day.

A request was made on a number of occasions prior to the Election Day for the VEC to provide this information.  Limited and inconsistent information was provided on one occasion with an undertaking given by the Victorian Electorate Commission that further information would be forthcoming prior to the Election Day.

This information was not made available in spite of numerous requests by me and others and others including candidates and campaign managers

Statistical information on the number of ballot papers issued and returned is essential in the planning, verification and scrutiny of the ballot.

Access to information and publication of election progressive results

Legislative Council – polling place return statistics


The Victorian Electoral Commission failed to publish or provide polling place statistical summary data for the Legislative Council on election night.

It is understood that the Victorian Electoral Commission in discussion with various media representatives opted not to publish details related to the Legislative Council for the 2006 State Election. In previous State Elections polling place data for the Legislative Council was available.

Contrary to the statements made by Mr. Antony Green, ABC Electoral Analyst, polling place data could have readily been published and would not have consumed vast computer resources as implied by Mr. Green.

The Victorian Electoral Commission had already recorded and tabulated the polling place data on their computerised database system. Without the detail polling place data it would have been impossible for the Victorian Electoral Commission to produced summary statistics. The size of the data extract files is approximately 0.5mb and would have taken less than one minute to process and extract.  Whilst it was not necessary to publish and update this data as frequently as desired for the Legislative Assembly this information could have and should have been published and updated on election night. The question must be asked why this information was not published

The publication of polling place return statistics, is important as it allows for the comparison of data between the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council and is used to verify the number of ballot papers that have been issued and accounted for at each polling place and is used in the planning and effective scrutiny of the ballot.

Each polling place returning officer on election night is required to tabulate the number of ballot papers issued (including the number of spoilt ballot papers) and undertake a cross tally check against the number of ballot papers recorded in the preliminary polling place count.

In the 2004 Federal Election ballot papers for the Victorian Senate are pre-sorted into above the line and first preference allocations manually counted and the results recorded and transmitted to the central tally room. The polling place return data is then used to tabulate the progressive summary results for each electorate.

The polling place return also records the number of absentee ballot papers issued for other electorates.

The Victorian Election Commission was unable or unwilling to provide this information, adding further concern as to the lack of a transparent process in the conduct of the election.

Legislative Council - below-the line preference data

 

The Victorian Electoral Commission had implemented data-entry tabulation and collation process of all below-the-line voting preference data as was the case in conduct of a number of local government elections in 2004/5 including the City of Melbourne in 2004.

The Victorian Electoral Commission was asked to provide copies of the electronic data-files recoding voters' preferences and used in the tabulation and calculation of the election result.  A request was made on more than one occasion for the electoral commission to publish this information. As information is stored in electronic format copies of the electronic data files could and should have been readily provided.

It is understood that scrutineers were not provided with copies of this information. Without access to a copy of the data file it is impossible to effectively scrutinise the counting of the election which is undertaken in “cyberspace” and reliant on the quality of the data-entry process.

There is no legal impediment providing access to copies of this data, as the information is a public document and does not breach the confidentiality of secrecy of the ballot.  Legal precedence had already been established by the ruling of the Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal (van der Craats versus City of Melbourne - Tribunal Determination. Error! Bookmark not defined.).

 

Copies of the preference data-files were made available to scrutineers during the 2004 and 2005 Municipal election.

Access to this information can allow for independent analysis and review of the data collected and stored and assists in the identification of ballot papers that may require further scrutiny.

The refusal of the Victorian Electoral Commission to publish certified copies of the electronic preference data files (Preliminary and Final counts) further reduces the openness and transparency of the conduct of the election in that this information is not subject to independent review, analysis and scrutiny.

Errors in the data-entry and tabulation of election results

Many of the problems that have been identified with the conduct of the November State election are due to the actions of the Victorian Electoral Commission and the refusal of the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Steve Tully, to provide detailed information pertaining to the Victorian Legislative Council election results.

A number of significant errors had occurred in the counting of the ballot.  Errors should have been avoided.

On completion of the preliminary data-entry process and counting of the ballot a number of serious errors and omissions in the conduct of the election had become apparent.  Errors that should not have occurred and should have been identified prior to executing the calculation and distribution of preferences in determining the election results.

The Victorian Election commission had failed to verify that the number of ballot papers recorded tallied with the expected number of ballot papers that had been returned and recorded in the polling place returns.

The Victorian Electoral Commission in an attempt to cover-up the full extent of their mistakes refused to provide or publish details of the election results. 

The Commission:

  • Failed to publish statistical information in relation to the number of postal and pre-poll votes that had been issued prior to the close of the poll on November 25, 2006.
  • Failed to publish voting centre return statistics on the number of ordinary ballot papers, the number of section votes and the number of absentee ballot papers that had been issued.
  • Failed to publish Statistical breakdown of the election results per voting centre. (This information was previously been provided and published on the Victorian Electoral Commissions web site.  Voting centre Information was published in respect to the Victorian Legislative Assemble but not the Victorian Legislative Council)
  • Failed to provide copies of the “below-the-line” preference data files for independent analysis and review. (Without access this information the result of the election could not be verified)
  • The Commission's data-entry processing was seriously flawed with no balance and cross checks undertaken to ensure that all ballot papers were accounted for.

The system put in place by the Victorian Electoral Commission was inadequate and poorly managed.

Had the Victorian Electoral Commission provided information outlined above, as requested, errors in the counting process would not have occurred.

Clearly the Victorian Electoral Commission had made short cuts and did not applied due diligence in that they failed to re-console the electronic record of ballot-papers with the total; number of ballot-papers received prior to calculating the results of the first count.

Regulation 110 (4) of the Local Government (Electoral) regulations states “Before calculating the result, the returning officer must reconcile the electronic record of ballot-papers with the total number of ballot-papers received.

Electronic voting kiosks – unauthorized access and security of data prior to the close of the poll

There are serious concerns and issues related to the security of access to election data stored and recorded on the electronic voting kiosks that was deployed during the conduct of the election.

Correspondence forward to the media and interested parties by the Victorian Electoral Commission dated 24 November (Copy of correspondence Glenda Frasier, dated November 24, concerning Electronic Voting Kiosk data  Error! Bookmark not defined.) indicated that VEC staff had accessed the results of the data recorded on the Electronic Voting Kiosks prior to the close of the ballot and in the absence of scrutineers. The Victorian Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Steve Tully, in a telephone conversation in response to correspondence forward to the commission dated November 24 was unaware of any access to the voting kiosk data files and denied that Victorian Electoral Office Staff had analysed and of the data.

 

This has raised serious issues of concern as to the rights and legality of election staff to access this information and the potential of abuse and misuse.

Scrutiny of electronic ballots

With the increasing use of electronic equipment used in the conduct of the election in order of an electronic count to be properly scrutinised, scrutineers MUST have access to information and copies of the electronic data files that are used to calculate and determine the results of the election.

The current regulations and legislation do not guarantee the rights of the scrutineer to gain access to this information. The Victorian Electoral Commission has on more than one occasion indicated that that they have no legislative requirement to provide or publishes details of the results of the election.

Although there are no legal provisions that prevent the Victorian Electoral Commission from providing access to information and copies of relevant data, the Victorian Electoral Commission has demonstrated that it is incapable or unwilling to regulate itself so as to ensure that the conduct of the election and the results of the election are fully open and transparent.  The refusal of the election commission to publish crucial statistical data limits the scrutiny of the electronic ballot continues to undermine public scrutiny and confidence in the electoral process

Freedom of Information request

On December 12, In order to obtain access to information that should have been available during the conduct of the election I was faced with the requyioreme3nt of having to make a submission under the provisions of the freedom of Information Act in order to obtain copies of relevant data.

 

The Victorian Electoral Commission, in what I consider to be an abuse of process, delayed the publication and provision of the data and information until February 2007. Even then the Victorian Electoral Commission failed to provide all the information requested.  Missing was copies of the Polling Place return statistics for the Legislative Council and copies of the below-the-line preference data files

A further application for an internal review and further delay was required before the Victorian Electoral Commission term, reluctantly provided some of the data requested.  Te commission had sought payment of the sum of $5,000 for copies of the Legislative Council Polling Place return statistics and still has not provided copies of the below-the-line preference data for the preliminary count undertaken for the Northern and Western Metropolitans seats.

I seriously question the sincerity and act of good faith undertaken on behalf of the Chief Electoral Commissioner in processing and providing the information requested.

On reading the various submission to the Electoral review commission I note that a number of other submission writes have expressed concern at the delay and failure of the commission to publish detailed results of the election in relation to the legislative council most notably from Malcolm Mackerras

The Victorian Electoral Commission in its reply to Malcolm Mackerras and others failed to address this issue of public concern.

A number of similar complaints have been recorded in relation to the conduct of local government Elections undertaken by then Victorian Electoral Commission (See of correspondence from Ian Quick, Save Our Suburbs report on their web site which outlines a number of issues of concern in relation to the Victorian Electoral Commission including the Commissions refusal provide access to the preference data files and detailed results of the elections and copy of letter to Steve Tully, Chief Electoral Commissioner of Victoria dated 26/02/2006 and Steve Tully's response dated 28/02.2006 for further information)

Electronic Data files

The electronic preference data files are public document and were subject of a ruling or the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 1999 (van der Craats v City of Melbourne [2000] VCAT 447 (29 January 2000) VICTORIAN CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL General List No. 1999/057919)  - Copy of ruling attached below

Copies of the preference electronic data files were made available during the 2004 City of Whitehorse and the City of Melbourne municipal elections.

The refusal of the Victorian Electoral Commission to provide access to this information in a timely fashion seriously undermines public confidence in the electoral process.

Given that this information was readily available it should have and could have been published on the Victorian Electoral Commissions Internet Web site.

The requirement to have to make an FOI application to obtain this information is an abuse of process by the Victorian Chief Electoral Commissioner, Steve Tully, who for reasons unknown sought to avoid accountability and the publication of this information,

If the Victorian Electoral Commission is unable or unwilling to demonstrate an ability of self governance then it is incumbent on the State Government to prescribe the requirement in law that this information is published without delay on the Commission’s Internet site so as to ensure that public elections remain open and transparent.

Review of the Local Government and Victorian Electoral Act is required to make provisions for the publication of information on the Internet.

There is of ongoing concern that Victorian Legislation does not mention or require public information being readily available and published on the Government’s Web site. Clearly all legislation requires review and should make specific mention of the Internet as a repository of public information.

Maintaining an Open and Transparent Election

With the increasing use of computer based technology in calculating the results of public elections, it is fundamental that process and results of the election are open and transparent and that all information is readily available for public review and scrutiny

The extent of errors recorded in the Victorian Legislative Council computerised election count highlights the need to ensure that our election processes are open and transparent

Comments