The Australian Electoral Commission is the body responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums and maintain the Commonwealth electoral roll. It also conducts industrial and commercial elections, and provides a range of electoral information education programs.
The AEC’s purpose is to “Maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters through active electoral roll management, efficient delivery of polling services and targeted education and public awareness programs.”
New legislation and a short time frame given to deliver for the Senate Reform Program.
With the assistance of Veritec the AEC delivered the program and all business outcomes were satisfied.
The Senate Reform Program delivered the election results for the 2016 Australian Federal Election with the help of Veritec.
The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016 (CEAB 2016) was introduced into Parliament on 22 February 2016 containing proposed changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (CEA). This Bill responded to some of the recommendations outlined in the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) report into the conduct of the 2013 federal election. The Bill was passed by Parliament on Friday 18 March 2016, with Royal Assent on Monday 21 March 2016.
The changes passed by the Parliament included the following:
- The abolition of group and individual voting tickets in the Senate.
- The introduction of partial optional preferential above the line voting in the Senate, with advice to the voter to number at least 6 boxes in the order of the voter's choice (with the number 1 as the voter's first choice).
- The introduction of a related savings provision to ensure that a Senate ballot paper is still formal where the voter has numbered at least 1 box above the line with the number (1) or a tick or a cross.
- The introduction of partial optional preferential voting below the line in the Senate, with advice to the voter to number at least 12 boxes in the order of the voter’s choice (with the number 1 as the voter’s first choice).
- The introduction of a related vote savings provision to ensure that a Senate ballot paper is still formal where the voter has marked at least six boxes below the line numbered sequentially (starting at “1”).
- The introduction of a restriction to prevent individuals holding relevant official positions in multiple political parties.
- To reduce voter confusion between political parties with similar party names, a proposal to allow political parties (at their discretion) to have their logo included on the House of Representatives and Senate ballot papers.
This was the largest change in almost 30 years for the AEC, with an immutable deadline to be delivered in 3 months. A new branch was setup to deliver this change consisting of up to 120 staff.
The AEC engaged Veritec to assist in standing up a new branch to deliver solutions for the above changes. Veritec provided project managers, business analysts, developers, testers and program support staff. Over the course of the Senate Reform Program Veritec staff:
- Project Managed the three core project streams
- Assisted to develop a new party logo submission system
- Assisted in defining a newprocess for printing ballot papers
- Delivered changes to the existing Senate Counting Software (EasyCount)
- Managed the delivery of the manual counting solution to stand up 8 sites nationally for data entry as a business continuity plan
- Worked with vendors to define the logistics processes to plan, package and deliver ballot papers to the Central Senate Scrutiny sites across Australia
- Assisted to deliver a Central dispatch and reconciliation system using SharePoint.
- Provided operational support capability which included helpdesk, onsite support, reconciliation of xml files received, operational reporting including data from eight sources for the daily National Election Delivery Committee
Despite the extreme deadlines and logistical issues facing the AEC, the Senate Reform Program successfully delivered a solution that returned a result within required timeframes. Veritec is proud to have assisted the AEC in utilising scanning technology for the first time and deliver the capability to scan all 15 million senate ballot papers in 8 locations across Australia.
“Veritec services were an asset to our project and have assisted the AEC in the delivery of great business outcomes” - Lynn White, A/g Assistant Commissioner IT & Senate Reform Program Lead.