Originally published in the Daily Telegraph, 15 July 2016
At the risk of being labelled a Luddite or a technophobe, there’s a compelling case to be made for keeping our current old-fashioned vote counting system. I acknowledge the count has taken a while and has caused a level a frustration, mainly for politicians keen to know if they have a job or not. That said, there is no question that the Australian Electoral Commission and the 75,000 temporary staff deployed at polling stations across the country have worked efficiently and accurately.
The HB pencils, cardboard cubicles and hand counting is a tried and tested method, and while it’s now being described as everything from quaint to archaic and even a roadblock to democracy, it's actually served us well over the years.
Think about it. The result of the extended count was an unexpectedly long period of caretaker government, where the ordinary business of government continued -- without interference from politicians. The AEC gave us two months of government stripped of politics and politicians; where the people who actually run the country - the men and women in our various government departments – were left alone to get on with the job.
When you think back to the Machiavellian manoeuvring, white-anting and coups that have so characterised our governments in recent years, you have to say the nation owes the AEC a debt of gratitude.
I know blockchain technology and e-voting is the future. It's elegant, foolproof, secure and transparent all at once and is set to revolutionise vote counting in the same way it has commerce with bitcoin. I know there'll soon be a voting app to download from the iTunes store.
The point is that Ned Ludd and his followers had a point back in the early 1800s when they tried to hold back the tide of technological progress. Technology did actually cost thousands of jobs and the death of many industries.
So no matter how long the vote count takes, let's not give in to these instant gratification urges and bin the HB pencils in favour of e-voting. The consequences could be ugly - an instant result, an instant end to the caretaker period and an instant return of politicians to upset the calm sanity of good government.
When it comes to e-voting versus the HB, if we can get at least two-months of stable government every three years or so, it may be that the pencil is mightier than the algorithm.
Alex Malley is chief executive of CPA Australia