The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC)’s Tally for the City of Melbourne shows votes have gone missing. In spite the City of Melbourne’s Returning Officer. Bill Lang. claiming that the data provided to scrutineers was a complete copy of the below the line votes there are votes missing or added into the count that were not disclosed or included in the information provided to scrutineers.
Under the Local Government Legislation the VEC is required to reconcile the number of votes recorded in the computer database prior to running the execute button. When requested to provide a copy of the reconciliation report the Returning Officer failed to do so. We wonder why the secrecy?
In 2006 the VEC stuffed up the Legislative Council Northern Metro and Western Metro counts by entering in the wrong data into the computer, No attempt was made to reconcile the number of ballots recorded on the computer records with the number of ballots received. It is this sought of sloppy administration and cutting corners that continues to bring the VEC into disrepute. It is made worst when they seek to cover it up and deny information to scrutineers.
Bill Lang said at the scrutineer/candidate’s meeting that “the scrutiny of the ballot is not important”. Something we strongly disagree with. The scrutiny of the ballot is just as, if not more, important than the counting of the votes. Without scrutineers and access to the data there is no way of knowing if the results of the election are correct and that the votes have not been tampered with or that the data-entry is in fact a true record.
Public confidence can only be maintained if the conduct of the election is open and transparent and subject to independent scrutiny. Something that the VEC has failed to enure is maintained
To highlight the extent of inconsistencies in the VEC’s record keeping
On Friday after the close of the poll the VEC reported they had received back a total of 66432 envelopes
The Official Election results published today reports:
Leadership Team (election of 1 Lord Mayor and 1 Deputy Lord Mayor)
|Informal Votes:||2827 (4.35% of the total votes)|
|Voter Turnout:||64996 (59.90% of the total enrolment)|
Councillors (9 vacancies)
|Informal Votes:||1407 (2.16% of the total votes)|
|Voter Turnout:||65071 (59.97% of the total enrolment)|
The number of missing ballot papers is greater as not all envelopes that have ballot papers missing would have had Council ballots in them and not the Leadership ballot, Some would have been the other way around.
What is a greater concern is that the number of envelopes reported as being received by the VEC on the Friday was 66432 some 1361 less Council Ballots and 1436 less Leadership ballots. Where did these ballots go? They could have been ballot papers that were rejected, did not have a signature or no ballot papers were inside the returned envelope. We just do not know, the VEC failed to provided a reconciliation report as required prior to running the count program.
There are a number of possible errors and faults that can occur with a computer count. The wrong data can be transcribed and entered into the computers database, as we saw in Western and Northern Metro seats during the 2006 State Election. Votes could be removed from the count or even double counted. Normally ballots are presorted, prior to counting, into primary votes. This allows scrutineers to obtain an early primary figure which in turn is then used as a control/check digit to determine if any votes have been left out or mis-recorded. The Victorian Local Government Act (Sch 3 cl 11B) requires that votes be sorted into parcels based on the primary vote.
For the sack of saving $300 to $400 to have staff presort the Council below the line ballot papers into primary votes the VEC undermined and prevented the proper scrutiny of the ballot. The presorting of ballot papers could have been undertaken in parallel with the opening of and the sorting of ballot papers into above-the-line and below-the-line votes. There were only 5500 below-the-line votes – not an onerous task by any stretch..
The VEC spent over $35 Million Dollars developing software (Most of which was outsourced to India). It is still unclear who owns the intellectual property rights for the VEC’s election software?
Given that the AEC already has in place computer systems and administrative procedures used to conduct elections we have to wonder what is it that Victorian Taxpayers get for their investment.