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Electoral Commissioner’s determination - iVote will not be used for 2023 NSW State election

The iVote voting system has provided eligible voters with the opportunity to cast their vote online or over the telephone in state elections since 2011 and more recently in local government elections. The system has been delivered during this period using internet voting software specially adapted for elections in New South Wales.

The NSW Electoral Commission has worked closely with its commercial partners over the last decade to make internet voting a convenient option for eligible NSW electors who might otherwise have found it difficult to participate in the democratic process. In 2022/2023, however, the current version of the iVote software used by the Electoral Commission will be phased out and the short runway for configuring and testing a new version before March 2023 means the Electoral Commissioner cannot be confident an updated system adapted for elections in NSW will be ready in time.

The Electoral Commissioner has determined, therefore, not to use iVote at the 25 March election or at any intervening by-elections between 1 July 2022 and 25 March 2023.

The Electoral Commissioner is announcing his decision now so that all potential election participants are made aware as early as possible of the arrangements that will apply for voting in the general election. The decision not to use iVote at the State general election in 2023 has not been driven by any concerns about cyber security matters in previous elections.

The Electoral Commission will start work immediately with representatives of the core users of iVote – being electors whose disability or location overseas or in remote areas of NSW makes traditional voting a challenge – to explore other ways to support their participation in the election.

In particular, the Electoral Commissioner will be recommending to the NSW Government that ordinary telephone voting still be made available for blind and low vision electors. This option has been delivered successfully at the recent four State by-elections and at two local government by-elections under COVID-19 special temporary arrangements.

The Electoral Commissioner is aware from the results of recent surveys the Commission undertook that most voters’ experiences with iVote at the Local Government elections in December 2021 were positive. Almost triple the number of voters successfully used the system than at any previous election. Given the problems that did arise for some voters, however, and the impact on three local elections in particular, the Electoral Commissioner is also recommending a targeted review before internet voting be considered for use at future elections. The review would consider the framework that governs internet voting, in consultation with the NSW Government, to confirm if it remains appropriate for the environment in which it operates and to identify any opportunities for improvement.

The NSW Electoral Commission remains a strong supporter of innovation in election delivery. In 2022, for example, it will be collaborating with Service NSW to develop a pilot for delivering a better voter experience using a customisable election information application.

The Electoral Commission looks forward to continuing discussions on the future of internet voting, as well as exploring other ways to maintain trust in our democratic process by enriching citizen engagement with elections through technology.