During this month\u2019s federal election, Ian Brightwell was asked by the Australian Electoral Commission to work at a pre-polling place at Crows Nest on Sydney\u2019s North Shore. \u201cThey were looking for people who know how elections work,\u201d he told CIO Australia. Brightwell was certainly the right person for the job. He was formerly director of IT and CIO at the NSW Electoral Commission \u2013 a role he quit in March \u2013 and a big advocate for electronic voting as a means to gain greater electoral integrity. The commission introduced e-voting during the 2015 state election for voters who are disabled, blind or have low vision, and those who were outside NSW on election day.On election day, Brightwell was also the 'officer in charge' of a joint polling place in Chatswood, Sydney.\u201cEverything I\u2019ve been saying over the years about the paper voting system being less than perfect, got rammed in my face when I worked on election day,\u201d Brightwell said.\u201cI took about 1,250 votes and the other one [polling place] took about 1,426. They took 666 absent votes with five issuing points, they were just hammered. I had three issuing points for in-division votes with a 50-metre queue where people were waiting for up to an hour.\u201cAnd you\u2019re sitting there saying, \u2018this is not real good'. We were also screaming all day to get ballot papers and you\u2019re thinking, \u2018this is not how it\u2019s supposed to be\u2019.\u201d His comments come as prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Labor leader, Bill Shorten, earlier this week pushed for e-voting to be introduced with counting still not complete in five vital seats since election weekend. During the 2015 NSW election, the iVote system was used to cast around five per cent of votes, or 280,000 out of 4.5 million. E-voting knocked a big hole in NSW\u2019s postal vote load, said Brightwell.\u201cWithout iVote, the NSWEC would have had to do what AEC did this time. As soon as nominations closed and ballot papers are printed, they then send bundled votes and other material to consulates around the world. And those consulates would then act as polling places and send the completed votes and unused material back as soon as they could on the Friday before election day.\u201cLast state election, NSW did not send any paper votes overseas to consulates for the election,\u201d he said.During state elections, polling places across the country used electronic devices (Android tablets) to determine where individuals are enrolled if they try to vote somewhere that\u2019s outside their enrolled division, said Brightwell.\u201cIn the federal election, the polling places had no electronic look-up devices. If you turned up to a polling place and said, \u2018I want to vote\u2019 and you weren\u2019t on the paper roll in that polling place\u2019s division, a guessing game goes on. If you lose the guessing game, part or all of your vote gets rejected.\u201d\u201cStatistically, the rejected absent votes for the AEC using no electronic device is much higher than it is for the NSW Electoral Commission who have devices where every polling place can look people up who aren\u2019t within that electoral area. And that vastly improves the quality of the absent votes you take, while reducing the effort and stress on staff and electors in polling places.\u201dThis method also reveals people who are not enrolled, he said.\u201cAt the state level in Victoria and NSW, they have an \u2018enrolment vote\u2019, which allows people with a valid driver\u2019s licence to both vote and enrol. Enrolment voting is not available federally.\u201d Still a \u2018workman-like\u2019 job Without an e-voting infrastructure, the AEC is doing a \u201cworkman-like job\u201d and these problems are largely forced on them by legislation and funding, Brightwell told CIO.Certainly, the AEC is now leading the way in security of ballot papers and procedures related to ballot handling, but the burden of these procedures largely fall to the polling officers in charge.\u201cThe current paper system is not broken but it is certainly strained and can\u2019t keep going the way it is now because it squeezes people on the ground in polling places too hard.\u201d\u201cMy general feeling is that everyone in government wanted the [Australian] Electoral Commission to shine [during this election],\u201d he said. \u201cThey would have come out better if it had not been for the fact that we had a potential hung parliament and government could not be reliably determined on election night. And because of that, the focus turned to the AEC and why it appeared to be slow.\u201d A quicker result with e-voting? Brightwell doesn\u2019t advocate e-voting across the board just yet. Rather, it needs to be done progressively and rolled out across voting channels which are difficult to manage. \u201cThe original reason for iVote was [to help] blind, low vision, and disabled [people] who obviously need access,\u201d Brightwell said. \u201cThe next group are interstate and overseas voters where you put a lot of effort in to get very few votes and quite frankly, some of them fail because they come back late.Ian Brightwell: E-voting should be rolled out gradually at a federal level across channels that are difficult to manage.\u201cAnd finally postal voting. We knew that the post is failing and we need an alternative \u2013 it can be up to 10 per cent of the votes cast and you need to have an alternative for that. You can\u2019t say to 10 per cent of people, \u2018you can\u2019t vote.\u2019\u201cIt comes with risk but there aren\u2019t really any viable alternatives and if we are going to go into it, we need to do it well with the proper scrutiny,\u201d he said. Meanwhile, pre-polls are also taking a huge number of votes and having computers at these locations would be helpful, he said. \u201cYou can shove equipment into all these pre-polls \u2026 it\u2019s not an impossibility or even a huge difficulty to put computers into pre-polls because you are there for two to three weeks,\u201d he said. At the very least, all of the \u2018out of area\u2019 votes can be done in the pre-poll on a computer, he said. \u201cBut to be frank, the smart thing to do would be to do all pre-poll votes electronically. The key when you do it, because it\u2019s an attendance vote, print a paper docket and that paper docket gets put into a box. \u201cThat box is then used on a sample basis to validate the result \u2013 so you can have no dispute [about the result]. And that will pick up potentially another 20 per cent of the vote. And those votes, which aren\u2019t counted on election night now, would be available on election night,\u201d he said.