NT Elections 2016
2016 Northern Territory Elections Highlights Automation and Shift in Voting System
The upcoming 2016 Northern Territory (NT) elections will be historic for two reasons. This is the first time the voting method has shifted from full to optional preferential voting and NTEC are introducing a fully automated election.
Elections in NT are usually held every four years on the fourth Saturday in August
The change in the voting system came into effect after legislation was passed in February 2016. The current Giles government proposed the change to optional preferential voting, which is also used in New South Wales and Queensland. Under this system, voters indicate a preference for one candidate by placing a "1" to cast a formal vote; other choices are optional.
Automated election management system is introduced
To address previous issues affecting the integrity and efficiency of the voting and election process, the Northern Territory Electoral Commission (NTEC) took a decision to engage with F1 Solutions to use F1 Solutions' automated election management system eLAPPS. Electronic Legislative Assembly Polling Place System (eLAPPS) was successfully used in the 2012 ACT election. Elections ACT is also going to use eLAPPS for the October 2016 ACT election.
eLAPPS was born when F1 Solutions was awarded the contract by Elections ACT to produce a system that answered the following requirements:
- A robust solution that can withstand hardware and/or software failure. The voter facing unit should continue to operate even if any of the links in the system fail.
- A user-friendly intuitive way for operators to locate the voter, give appropriate instructions, issue the correct ballot paper and mark them off as having voted.
- A fast system that shortens the voter processing time – during the first 4 hours of polling day, it is expected that the majority of people would vote.
- An accurate system
- A scalable system that can cope with an increase in size (number of polling sites) and/or volume (number of voters).
How Election Management automation is achieved?
Each polling site is set up with a number of touch-enabled netbooks that operate as Issuing Points (IP) and a Central Unit (CU). There is one Central Unit for each polling site, which centrally stores all the information about all the polling sites including ballot papers allocations, electorate details, etc. Only the Officer-In-Charge (OIC) at the polling site can access the CU. Issuing Points are used by polling personnel to perform voter lookup and mark off.
A voter presents their name at the polling booth. The Issuing Point is used to look up the voter's information and mark off the roll when the voter is issued with a ballot paper or barcode (for use at electronic polling sites). At regular intervals, all Issuing Points in the polling site synchronise data with their designated Central Unit. All the CUs from each polling site across the Territory transmit the consolidated polling site data that has changed to the central HQ server. The HQ server holds up to date voting data and polling site activities in a central database for all the polling sites. The update is then "pushed" out to each CU, and the CU then updates all the IPs to which it is connected. This process ensure that multiple votes are identified, as each IP will have the data that is marked off from all the polling sites in the Territory.
Each Issuing Point is designed to work as a standalone unit if the IP is unable to connect or the connection is interrupted. When the connection is restored, synchronisation commences and updates flow in the background.
At the end of the polling day, as part of the process to return to Headquarter (HQ), polling staff at each polling site need to finalise first preference counts and ballot paper use in eLAPPS. Other returns are also made by the OIC to election HQ in eLAPPs including staff performance reviews, incident reports, postal votes administration reports, etc.
Subsequent to election day, staff at the HQ may count and update into eLAPPs HQ server the additional postal or interstate votes that they receive. They may check results or update vote counts in the system if necessary.
General public and media can access election results via Election Result Display System (ERDS) - a public portal developed by F1 Solutions. ERDS integrates with eLAPPs and visualises voting results with interactive dashboards and maps and an informative and appealing user interface.
Benefits of Electronic Elections Management
The implementation of an automated election management during the 2012 ACT Elections saw a decrease in processing times by 20-30 seconds which reduced long queues in polling precincts. Significantly, it increased operational efficiency by up to 20% together with an increase in polling staff productivity by 40%. Reconciliation processing was down by 25%. Most importantly multiple voting was decreased by 100%
eLAPPS transforms polling sites operation for NTEC during the election period by:
- Streamlining the ballot-issuing and reconciliation processes resulting in reduced processing time.
- Automating end of day processing for Officers in Charge (OIC) at polling sites, replacing the need for phone calls from the Polling Place to the HQ and decreasing the potential for data entry errors to occur.
- Reducing the chance of multiple voting across different polling sites ensuring one vote per person.
eLAPPS has brought the digital revolution to polling sites. Everyone is a winner! Shorter queues by electronic voter look-up mean the voters are happier. High productivity and job satisfaction are achieved by the polling site staff, OICs and personnel who manages elections due to efficient workflow. The results are transparent and accessible, providing the media ease in information dissemination. Meanwhile, the quick outcome results will give voters peace of mind.
F1 Solutions is committed to providing convenient solutions to the business and compliance needs of all levels of government. Automating the elections in Northern Territory, in addition to the already established process in Australian Capital Territory, are just a few of the planned software projects we will release to improve the experience of the public in dealing with government.
Photo Source: Northern Territory Electoral Commission Facebook page
About F1 Solutions
For over 20 years F1 Solutions has been building quality software solutions for Federal and State Government departments, small and large not-for-profits, and businesses in Canberra and across Australia. We also provide organisations with trusted IT support and advice, as well as a range of other services.
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