Australian Parliament considers implementing electronic voting for MPs

Since its founding in 1901, the Australian Parliament has observed a number of traditions. Some traditions hark back to those enacted in British Parliament such as making the declaration of an open Parliament in the Senate rather than the House of Representatives. This tradition primarily exists because a monarch or an appointed representative, such as the Governor-General in Australia, does not enter the House of Representatives.

However, the way in which MPs formally vote in the future could change if a Lower House committee gets its way.

Normally, when a voice vote has been challenged, MPs must physically move themselves to either the right or left side of the Chamber to represent a respective affirmative or negative vote. Votes are then manually counted and names of Members recorded before the result is announced.

Committee MPs have been keen to retain this tradition but with the introduction of smart cards which would be swiped across a reader physically located either side of the Chamber. This would enable votes to be tallied in real time and potentially save time required for manual counting and recording. However, a major drawback to a smart card system would be that votes for absent MPs could potentially be cast if their presence in the Chamber was not verified.

In any case, this is not the first time that electronic voting has been put forward. Back in November 1996, the Procedure Committee made a similar recommendation for electronic voting with nothing to show for it. Originally, the cost to implement electronic voting in both Houses originally estimated at AU$3 million over three years while support costs topped AU$300,000 per year. Given the elapsed time of almost two decades, it would be interesting to see how much a solution would cost today given the advancement of technology since the 1990s.

Source: ABC News Australia | Australian flag image via Shutterstock

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