Technology Assisted Voting

Approved Procedures for NSW State Elections

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. PURPOSE
  3. DEFINITIONS AND ABBREVIATIONS
  4. APPROVED PROCEDURES
    1. Approval and Publication
    2. Additional Eligibility Requirements
    3. Use of Technology Assisted Voting
    4. Voter Registration
    5. Acknowledgement of Registration
    6. Distribution of the iVote Number
    7. Voting Method
    8. Spoken Candidate and Party Names
    9. Voting Period
    10. Recording, Transmission and Storage of the Vote
    11. Authentication of Vote
    12. Secrecy of Vote
    13. Ballot Papers
    14. Scrutineers
    15. Audit Programme
    16. System Security
  5. DOCUMENT CONTROL

1. INTRODUCTION

The New South Wales Electoral Commission (NSWEC) provides technology assisted voting at NSW State Elections by way of the iVote®[1] system. The Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 [PEEA] requires that the Electoral Commissioner approves procedures in relation to the implementation of technology assisted voting[2].

This is the Approved Procedures for technology assisted voting at NSW State Elections.

The iVote system provides two channels of voting: by telephone, or by browser over the internet.

The iVote system is available to electors who:

  1. are eligible under one of the grounds set out in s 120AB(1) of the PEEA;
  2. appear on the authorised electoral roll at the time of issue of the writ for a NSW State Election; and
  3. register their intention to use the iVote system.

The Electoral Commissioner is authorised under the PEEA to impose additional eligibility requirements for technology assisted voting by way of order published on the NSW legislation website.[3] There are currently no such orders in force.

The regulations may limit the classes of electors who may be eligible for technology assisted voting.[4] There are currently no such regulations in force.

The regulations may also:

  1. make provision for or with respect to
    • the technology assisted voting method that may be authorised under the approved procedures;
    • the period during which voting by eligible electors using technology assisted voting is permitted (including a period before polling day);
    • the appointment by the Electoral Commissioner of officers to facilitate voting by means of technology assisted voting;
    • the independent auditing of the secrecy and authenticity of voting by means of technology assisted voting at any election;[5] and
  2. provide that technology assisted voting is not to be used at a specified election.[6]

There are currently no such regulations in force.

2. PURPOSE

This document outlines procedures approved by the Electoral Commissioner for:

  1. registration of electors eligible to use the iVote system;
  2. recording, authentication, secrecy and secure storage of the eligible elector’s vote;
  3. inclusion of the eligible elector’s vote in the count; and
  4. scrutiny of the iVote system.

3. DEFINITIONS AND ABBREVIATIONS

TermDefinition

Approved Procedures

The procedures approved by the Electoral Commissioner under section 120AC of the PEEA.

District

A district for the election of a member to serve in the Legislative Assembly.

Election

Includes by-election.

Electoral Board

The body appointed by the Electoral Commissioner to control the iVote system encryption/decryption process.

Electoral Commissioner

The Electoral Commissioner of NSW appointed under the PEEA.

Eligible Elector

An elector who meets any of the eligibility requirements for technology assisted voting by way of the iVote system as prescribed under s120AB of the PEEA.

iVote Number

A unique 8 digit number for each elector registered to use the iVote system.

iVote system

The NSW voting system that enables technology assisted voting pursuant to the PEEA.

NSWEC

The New South Wales Electoral Commission Staff Agency established under the Government Sector Employment Act 2013.

PIN

A 6 digit Personal Identification Number.

PEEA

Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912.

regulations

Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Regulation 2008.

Verification Service

A service that allows a voter to confirm that their vote is recorded in the iVote system as they cast it.

4. APPROVED PROCEDURES

4.1. Approval and Publication

  1. Section 120AC of the PEEA requires that the Electoral Commissioner approves procedures in relation to the implementation of technology assisted voting.
  2. The Approved Procedures are published on the NSWEC website.

4.2. Additional Eligibility Requirements

  1. The Electoral Commissioner is authorised under the PEEA to impose additional eligibility requirements for technology assisted voting by way of order published on the NSW legislation website.
  2. During an election period, the Electoral Commissioner may choose to publish additional requirements to limit access to the iVote system by any eligible class of electors at any time during the operation of the iVote system

4.3. Use of Technology Assisted Voting

  1. The Electoral Commissioner is authorised under the PEEA to determine that technology assisted voting is not to be used at a specified election.
  2. The Electoral Commissioner’s determination is to be published on the NSWEC website.

4.4. Voter Registration

  1. The registration period will be published on the NSWEC website within two business days of the writ being issued.
  2. An eligible elector must register to use the iVote system either by:
    1. self-registering using a web based application service on the NSWEC iVote internet site; or
    2. telephoning the NSWEC iVote Call Centre.
  3. At the time of registration the elector must provide:
    1. their elector enrolment details to identify themselves on the electoral roll, i.e., their full name, date of birth and address; and
    2. a 6 digit PIN which will be required when voting using the iVote system.

    NB: A silent elector will identify themselves on the electoral roll by providing only their full name and date of birth.

  1. The elector will make a declaration by affirming the contents of the declaration on the screen, or by listening to the declaration that is read to the applicant by the Call Centre operator and affirming the declaration verbally:

    I DECLARE

    That:

    I am the person identified on the electoral roll

    I have not previously voted in this election

    The ground on which I apply to vote using the iVote system is;

    a.  my vision is so impaired, or otherwise I am so physically incapacitated or so illiterate, that I am unable to vote without assistance;

    b.  I have a disability (within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977) and because of that disability I have difficulty voting at a polling place or I am unable to vote without assistance;

    c.  my real place of living is not within 20 kilometres, by the nearest practicable route, of a polling place;

    d.  I will not be within New South Wales throughout the hours of polling on election day

  2. The eligible elector must select only one of the above grounds.
  3. Eligible electors who apply for registration under paragraph 5 c. above can only use the self-registration online service if they are enrolled in a district which the Electoral Commissioner has determined to be of a geographical size where it is possible that an elector’s real place of living is not within 20 kilometres, by the nearest practicable route, of a polling place.
  4. The districts determined by the Electoral Commissioner under paragraph 7 will be published on the NSWEC website for each election.
  5. Eligible electors who apply under paragraph 5 c. above, but are not enrolled in a district as determined by the Electoral Commissioner, may contact the iVote Call Centre to determine their eligibility and register by phone.
  6. During the registration process, secondary confirmation of identify is requested, e.g., a Driver License number or Australian Passport number. Providing such information will remove the requirement for an acknowledgement letter to be sent to the voter’s enrolled address.
  7. Electors who have forgotten their PIN can re-register by telephoning the NSWEC iVote Call Centre.
  8. The re-registration process is only available through the iVote Call Centre and requires the same elector authentication information as an initial registration. Re-registration may also require an acknowledgement letter to be sent to the elector’s enrolled address.

4.5. Acknowledgement of Registration

  1. Each registered elector who does not provide secondary confirmation of identity, will receive an acknowledgement letter.
  2. An acknowledgement letter will not include the elector’s iVote Number.
  3. Electors may cancel their registration via the iVote Call Centre.
  4. An elector seeking cancellation of registration will be asked to provide secondary confirmation of identity, a Driver Licence number or Australian Passport number. If that information is not provided, a letter confirming the cancellation will be sent to the elector’s enrolled address.
  5. Cancelling a registration does not prevent the elector from subsequently re-registering.
  6. Registration of an elector will be blocked where:
    1. the elector has been identified by the NSWEC as being at risk of being impersonated, e.g., due to their public profile and does not have an active registration
    2. the elector fails to correctly select their enrolled street from the list of streets displayed
  7. Blocking an elector prevents the elector from registering via the internet; however, the elector can still register via the iVote Call Centre.

4.6. Distribution of the iVote Number

  1. Registered electors will receive their iVote Number either by SMS text (preferred); email; personal phone call by the iVote Call Centre; or post to the address nominated at time of registration.
  2. For security, the iVote Call Centre operators providing iVote Numbers will not be the same operators who process iVote system registrations.
  3. If the elector cannot provide a telephone or mobile number within Australia, the personal phone call service will not be offered.
  4. Electors who have lost their iVote Number can have it re-sent by telephoning the NSWEC iVote Call Centre.

4.7. Voting Method

  1. Any elector connected to the iVote system during the voting period may remain connected up to 60 minutes after the close of the voting period at 6.00 pm on Election Day, or up to 30 minutes for by-elections, to complete their vote.
  2. The elector accesses the iVote system by entering the PIN they provided at the time of registration with the iVote Number provided by the NSWEC.
  3. Electors who have forgotten their PIN can re-register via the iVote Call Centre to receive a new iVote Number. The period of re-registration is from the opening of registrations until the close of voting.
  4. The iVote system can be accessed by two channels:
    1. iVote by Web; and
    2. iVote by Phone, which offers two options:
      1. an automated telephone IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system; or
      2. an election official (other than the iVote Call Centre operator who took the registration call) will answer the call and enter the voter credentials and preferences into the iVote system on the elector’s behalf. All actions will be recorded and verified by another election official.
  1. The elector can confirm their preferences prior to the vote being committed to the iVote system.
  2. If there is any doubt as to the authenticity of a vote cast, or if the system indicates that it is a duplicate vote, the Electoral Commissioner or the Commissioner’s delegate may reject such vote by removing it from the iVote system. This process will occur prior to the decryption of votes.
  3. The rejection of any votes in the iVote system will be open to observation by authorised scrutineers. A record of all rejected votes will be retained, together with the evidence on which the rejection was based.
  4. The iVote system will limit the elector to voting in the following ways:
    1. The elector only assigns preferences as numeric values in a sequential order starting from the number 1.
    2. Legislative Council ballots may only have preferences against one or more above the line groups, or against one or more below the line candidates, but preferences cannot be allocated to both.
    3. The elector may only enter an informal vote in the following manner:
      • Legislative Assembly – not entering any preferences on the ballot paper, i.e., a blank ballot paper; and
      • Legislative Council – a blank ballot paper both above and below the line
      • (When fewer than 15 preferences have been entered below the line, the elector is warned and this is shown as a blank ballot)

    4. The elector will receive an explicit warning when either or both their Legislative Assembly and/or Legislative Council ballot papers have been completed and they have provided fewer than the minimum number of preferences required. The warning will advise them that their vote is not complete and provide them with the option to return and complete their ballot or to proceed with casting an incomplete vote.
  5. The following words will replace the ballot paper instructions for the Legislative Assembly for the iVote by Web service:

    Enter your preference numbers to vote by double clicking on the square next to the candidate(s) of your choice. You must vote for at least one candidate.

    You have the option to vote for further candidate(s).

    Alternatively, you can move to a square by using the tab key and then pressing the letter N on the keyboard to enter your preference number

    Options available after the ballot on this page are:

    • Undo last choice - removes your last preference
    • Clear all choices - clears all preferences from this ballot
    • My choices - displays preferences selected
    • Previous page - returns to previous page
    • Continue - saves preferences and goes to next page
  6. There will be a special version of instructions when accessing iVote by Web using a mobile device due to the smaller screen sizes, as follows:

    Enter your preference numbers to vote by tapping on the square next to the candidate(s) of your choice in descending order of preference.

    You must vote for at least one candidate.

  7. The following words will appear on the ballot paper instructions for the Legislative Council for the iVote by Web service:

    You can vote either above or below the line.

    Above the Line

    If you vote above the line you must enter your preference number(s) to vote by double clicking on the square next to the Group(s) of your choice. You must vote for at least one Group.

    You have the option to vote for further Group(s).

    Alternatively, you can move to a square by using the tab key and then pressing the letter N on the keyboard to enter your preference number.

    There are [number of groups] Groups above the line.

    Below the Line

    If you vote below the line you must enter your preference numbers to vote by double clicking on the square next to the candidates of your choice. You must vote for at least 15 candidates.

    You have the option to vote for further candidate(s).

    Alternatively, you can move to a square by using the tab key and then pressing the letter N on the keyboard to enter your preference number.

    There are [number of groups] Groups below the line and a column of independent candidates at the far right of the ballot.

  8. There will be a special version when accessing iVote by Web using a mobile device due to the smaller screen sizes. The instructions for this will be:

    You can vote either above or below the line.

    Above the Line

    If you vote above the line you must enter your preference number(s) to vote by tapping on the square next to the Group(s) of your choice. You must vote for at least one Group.

    You have the option to vote for further Group(s).

    Note: you will not be able to vote for groups without group voting squares you can only vote for the candidate in these groups if you choose to vote Below the Line.

    Below the Line

    If you vote below the line you must enter your preference numbers to vote by tapping on the square next to the candidates of your choice.

    You must vote for at least 15 candidates.

    You have the option to vote for further candidate(s).

  9. The following words will be heard for the Legislative Assembly ballot paper instructions by way of the iVote by Phone service:

    Legislative Assembly

    • You are now allocating your preferences for the Legislative Assembly ballot. This ballot is for the District of [district name] and contains [N] candidates, which are listed vertically.
    • To move down the list of candidates press 8, or to move up the list press 2.
    • When you hear the candidate's name of your choice, press 5 to allocate them a preference.
    • You must allocate at least one preference in this ballot for your vote to count.
    • To repeat these instructions, press star 1.
    • To hear the first candidate, press 8.

    Note: N equals the number of candidates on the ballot.

  10. The following words will be heard for the Legislative Council ballot paper instructions by way of the iVote by Phone service:

    Legislative Council

    • You are now at the Legislative Council ballot.
    • You can select to vote either "above the line" by group, or "below the line" by candidate.
    • To vote above-the-line for one or more groups, please press 1;
    • To vote below-the-line for at least 15 of the [N] candidates, please press 2.
    • To repeat these instructions, please press star 1

    Note: N equals the number of candidates below the line on the ballot for the Legislative Council.

    Voting Above the Line

    • You have opted to vote Above the Line for the Legislative Council.
    • Groups in this ballot are arranged horizontally.
    • Please note that some groups only have a group letter as their name.
    • There are [N] groups arranged across this ballot.
    • To move right, press 6. To move left, press 4.
    • To assign a group with a preference, press 5.
    • You can allocate more than 1 preference if you choose.
    • Upon completion, press the hash key and you will be prompted to review your vote.
    • If instead you want to vote for candidates below the line, press star 7.
    • To repeat these instructions, press star 1.
    • To begin press 6 to hear the first group.

    Note: N equals the number of Group Voting Squares above the line on the ballot for the Legislative Council.

    Voting Below the Line

    • You have opted to vote below the line for the Legislative Council ballot.
    • Please note: some groups only have a group letter as their name.
    • To complete this ballot, you must assign preferences to at least 15 of the [N] candidates.
    • If instead you want to vote for one or more groups above the line, press star 7 or to continue to vote below the line, press 1.
    • Moving between groups: To move right, press 6. To move left, press 4.
    • Moving between candidates within a group:
    • To move down, press 8. To move up, press 2.
    • Allocating a preference to a candidate: when you hear the candidate's name of your choice, press 5 to allocate them your next preference.
    • To repeat these instructions, press star 1.
    • To commence below the line voting, press 1.

    Note: N equals the number of candidates below the line on the ballot for the Legislative Council.

4.8. Spoken Candidate and Party Names

  1. The NSWEC will record the names of candidates and any affiliations as they appear on the ballot paper in the order first name, last name. All names will be spoken by the same professional voice actor in an even tone without emphasis.
  2. All recorded candidate names will be made available on the NSWEC website alongside other candidate information. They will be made available as nominations are received, and, where practicable, all recordings will be completed and available by 6.00 pm on the Friday after the close of nominations.
  3. Candidates will be referred to the NSWEC internet site to check their details and listen to the recording of their name to ensure correct pronunciation.
  4. If a name is incorrectly pronounced and the candidate contacts the NSWEC to advise the correct pronunciation, that name will be re-recorded and replaced in the iVote system. The deadline for NSWEC to receive advice correcting pronunciation will be 6.00 pm on the Saturday prior to the start of voting or as otherwise advised to the candidates by NSWEC.
  5. There can be no subsequent changes made to the recorded name.
  6. There can be no changes made to the recording of the spoken candidate name if the candidate is unhappy with the voice, the tone or anything other than incorrect pronunciation, e.g., ‘Smith’ as opposed to ‘Smythe’, or ‘Antony’ as opposed to ‘Anthony’.
  7. The NSWEC cannot guarantee correct pronunciation of any candidate name and can only provide the best pronunciation within the limits of the selected voice actor.

4.9. Voting Period

  1. The voting period for eligible electors will be publicised on the NSWEC web site within two business days of the writ being issued, or earlier.
  2. Voting using the iVote system closes at 6.00 pm election day.

4.10. Recording, Transmission and Storage of the Vote

  1. Making a record of each elector who has voted
    1. At the time of registration the elector provides a 6-digit PIN. The PIN is immediately encrypted within the Registration System and sent to the Credential Management System.
    2. From the Credential Management System, the iVote system is loaded with a unique credential generated from the elector’s iVote Number and cryptographically hashed PIN. The district for which the elector is enrolled is attached to this credential.
    3. When an elector accesses the iVote system, they are prompted to enter their iVote number and their PIN, which are validated to the stored credential. The voter receives a district ballot corresponding to their enrolled district, and a Legislative Council ballot if a general election.
    4. The iVote system stores a list of the credentials used to cast ballots. The separate Credential Management System is able to connect each credential with an individual registered elector.
    5. The used credentials are exported at the conclusion of the election and matched back to the elector’s enrolment, which is used to check if they have already voted.
  2. Electoral Board for Technology Assisted Voting

    For each election, the Electoral Commissioner is to:

    1. appoint an Electoral Board to control the iVote encryption/decryption process,
    2. determine the quorum of the Electoral Board,
    3. be a member of the Electoral Board.
  3. Secure Transmission
    1. iVote by Phone opens up a telephone line that provides a single line between a handset and the iVote system.
    2. iVote by Web uses HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure for connection to the iVote system. This ensures that all information is encrypted between the elector and the iVote system.
    3. Additionally, within the secure connection, the actual vote preferences are also encrypted within the voter’s web browser before transmission to the server.

4.11. Authentication of Vote

  1. The iVote system provides an elector with a 12-digit receipt number at the conclusion of their voting session.
  2. No identifying information about the elector or the vote preferences can be extracted from the receipt number.
  3. The receipt code is stored within the iVote system as part of the encrypted vote, which is also sent to the Verification Service.
  4. Prior to the close of voting, an elector who cast their vote using the iVote system can call the iVote Verification Service to verify their vote as follows:
    1. The Verification Service will request the elector’s iVote Number, PIN and receipt number;
    2. the Verification Service will read the stored ballot preferences; and
    3. if the elector considers that the preferences as read are not as they voted, they may contact an iVote Call Centre operator who will re-register them, thereby removing their vote from the system and allowing them to vote again.
  5. At the conclusion of the election, receipt numbers and their associated fully encrypted ballots are exported from the iVote system for decryption. The receipt numbers of decrypted votes will be loaded to the receipt checking service of the iVote system.
  6. The elector can return to the iVote system from the Monday after Election Day; by entering their receipt number they can confirm that their vote was included in the final count.

4.12. Secrecy of Vote

  1. In conjunction with the secure transmission and storage of the vote, the following also applies:
    1. On completion of a vote the ballots are encrypted and stored with all other ballots. The unique credential is linked to each encrypted vote which allows it to be linked to the elector, but only through the separate Credential Management and Registration System;
    2. Encrypted ballots can only be decrypted and viewed in the presence of the Electoral Board;
    3. Before decryption, all ballots are separated from the unique credential so they cannot be linked to the elector; and
    4. As part of the decryption process, the ballots are randomised so that the order of the votes cannot be used to link them to electors.

4.13. Ballot Papers

  1. Cast Ballots
    1. After 6.00pm on Election Day, the Electoral Board will assemble to allow the iVote system to decrypt the stored votes.
    2. The decryption process allows for the randomisation of the votes within each district.
    3. All Legislative Assembly ballots will be printed by district on A4 paper and/or rendered electronically in the same format. The printout may be in report format and not reflect the layout of the ballot paper as prescribed in Schedule 4A to the PEEA and as provided for by s 120AC(3) of the PEEA, but will contain all the relevant data from the ballot paper.
    4. All Legislative Council ballots will be printed on blank A4 paper and/or rendered electronically in the same format and sorted into district groups. The printout will be in report format and not reflect the layout of the ballot paper as prescribed in Schedule 4A to the PEEA and as provided for by s 120AC(3) of the PEEA but will contain all the relevant data from the ballot paper.
    5. Paper copies will be bundled and sorted by district, sealed and delivered to the Returning Officer for that district.
    6. An electronic copy of the printed ballots will be sealed and delivered electronically to the Returning Officer for each district.
  2. Counting and Reporting
    1. Once decrypted at the close of the election, ballots cast via the iVote system are counted by the NSWEC.
    2. The ballots cast via the iVote system are counted with the postal and all other votes in accordance with s 120AF of the PEEA. If the Electoral Commissioner determines that the numbers of ballots cast via the iVote system are such that separate publication of their count will not compromise vote secrecy, a separate report of such ballots may be made public.
    3. The following procedure of comparing the decrypted ballots cast via the iVote system with the encrypted ballots stored by the Verification Service will occur within 48 hours of the decryption:
      1. the encrypted votes from the Verification Service will be downloaded in a process that removes any data linking the votes to the voter and leaves the votes securely encrypted;
      2. the decrypted votes from the iVote system will be re-encrypted by the NSWEC using the Receipt Number in the same way as the Verification Service votes; and
      3. the two sets of encrypted votes are sorted and matched, to confirm they are the same votes, without disclosing the actual preferences.
      4. The Electoral Commissioner may also appoint suitably qualified individuals to perform this comparison independently of that performed by the NSWEC. Such individuals may also be asked to independently verify the NSWEC’s count of ballots cast via the iVote system.
  3. Secrecy relating to technology assisted voting
    1. Any person handling encrypted or printed iVote ballots is to be appointed as an electoral official under the PEEA.

4.14. Scrutineers

  1. The Electoral Commissioner will provide to Registered Political Parties and independent candidates a written timetable of the events which scrutineers can attend.
  2. Scrutineers must be appointed by a candidate as provided for by the PEEA.

4.15. Audit Programme

  1. For each State General Election, the NSWEC will appoint an independent auditor to report to the Electoral Commissioner at least seven days before voting commences and again with 60 days of the return of the writs.
  2. The Auditor will determine whether test votes cast in accordance with these Approved Procedures are accurately reflected in the corresponding test ballot papers.
  3. The NSWEC and its staff will provide access to all procedures and requests by the independent auditor.
  4. The Electoral Commissioner will publish the acceptance of the report on the NSWEC website.

4.16. System Security

  1. Any NSWEC staff with access to the source code or other security aspects of the computer infrastructure and sub-systems must sign an acknowledgement of their obligations as to secrecy related to technology assisted voting and protection of computer hardware and software.

5. DOCUMENT CONTROL

5.1. Document Management

Approved by:

J Schmidt
Electoral Commissioner
for New South Wales

Signature:

Date approved:

17 March 2017

5.2.Revision Record

Date

Version

Revision description

12.02.2015

1.0

Updated for 2015 State General Election

17.10.2016

2.0

Updated for November 2016 State By-elections

17.03.2017

2.1

Minor update for April 2017 State By-elections


Footnotes

1Registered trade mark of the State of NSW (New South Wales Electoral Commission).

2s120AC, PEEA

3s120AB(2), PEEA

4s120AB(3), PEEA

5s120AK(2), PEEA

6s120AK(3), PEEA