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Australian Electoral Commission Refuses To Release Vote Counting Source Code 112

angry tapir writes: The Australian Electoral Commission has been fighting a freedom of information request to reveal the source code of the software it uses to calculate votes in elections for Australia's upper house of parliament. Not only has the AEC refused an FOI request (PDF) for the source code, but it has also refused an order from the Senate directing that the source code be produced. Apparently releasing the code could "leave the voting system open to hacking or manipulation."
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Australian Electoral Commission Refuses To Release Vote Counting Source Code

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  • by sd4f ( 1891894 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @12:21AM (#47463879)

    It's software to tally it up. There's always a paper backup. As an Australian, this worries me.

    While our senate voting system is a little odd, adding up the votes isn't simple and can't be done on election night, so it's no surprise to see software being used to calculate it, but with that said, all it has to do is do a number of rounds as candidates reach their quota, and when no one has a quota in that it eliminates the last candidate and moves the preferences accordingly. Our last election, there was even an instance of ~2000 ballot papers going missing, and then supposedly resurfacing much later. The High Court decided on another election for the state involved, which in my opinion is the only fair outcome possible.

    If they're worried about hacking it, it's a complete farce; there's no reason why the computer doing the sums even has to be connected to the internet, seeing as I think all the ballots are counted by people (they're farcically large ballots often described as table cloths), they just plod in a few numbers as the data comes in. Someone must be worried that competent, impartial people will have a look and find something which has been giving out porky pies.

  • Re:Hmmm, (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @12:45AM (#47463967)

    Australian senate elections don't use electronic voting machines to record elector's votes.

    The AEC use this software to allocate preferences derived from the 'group voting ticket' ballots on pieces of paper (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_voting_ticket)

  • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bobNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @01:02AM (#47464015) Journal

    Does the thing run only on Windoze 8 ?

    Window anyway.

    It's a VB6 program running on a single PC, supposedly for security reasons. The system is highly manual and failure prone enough that they're probably too embarrassed to release the code.

    The system was developed internally by the AEC in 2001, when an upgrade to Windows 2000 rendered an existing COBOL-based application the commission was using to tally-up union elections incompatible with its standard operating environment. It was re-written as a Microsoft Visual Basic application and runs on Microsoft SQL.

    http://www.itnews.com.au/News/... [itnews.com.au]
    http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/... [crikey.com.au]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @04:14AM (#47464695)

    The article is very light on detail.

    However, I'd like to clarify some incorrect, or at least out-dated, points in your post.

    The AEC does use software for keeping track of votes.
    But it was not written in VB6. Nor was it written in 2001.

    How do I know this? Simple. I was on the team that wrote it.
    I was on the project in 2012/2013, though the project has existed before and after that.
    The AEC does/did have some legacy COBOL systems. But this isn't one of them.

    I don't want to go into detail because a) it would be inappropriate and b) I don't know enough about the agency outside of the project to represent them adequately.

    The software went partially-live during the last election to show that it worked and it met all milestones. It will likely see further use and development in the future.

  • by MojoMagic ( 669271 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @06:17AM (#47465039)

    Indeed you are correct. See my above reply to 'gronofer'. I mis-understood the original article. I worked on a related but separate system. I apologise for misleading you, even though it was unintentional.

    The details of where you voted, when you voted and the type of your vote are attached to your ID. But, WHO you actually voted for remains completely anonymous... So don't fret. :)

    My system was used (among other things) to determine if/when/how a given person attempted to vote more than once. The funny thing is a significant proportion of these offenders turn out to be elderly people who simply 'forgot' that they had already voted. Seriously.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.