On election night it was more of a deluge than a trickle when Elections ACT began crunching the numbers, and it was all over by 8:00 pm.
Fast, efficient and clean, it was a challenge to keep pace with the tumbling numbers but it was an election night like no other and we may have seen the future of elections generally.
Initial feedback from Elections ACT is that the poll overall, with its unprecedented three weeks of early voting, went exceptionally well, with the vast majority of the electorate voting early and up to 70 per cent electronically.
In 2016, only 33 per cent voted pre-poll, and this time more than double voted electronically.
As well as the extended early voting due to COVID-19, a big difference was the easier-to-use touch screen interface and card, instead of the keypad used in 2016.
”[In 2016] some people were already au fait with smartphones and it felt a bit old,” an Elections ACT spokesperson said.
“The vast majority of anecdotal feedback from polling officials who were talking to voters was that it was incredibly smooth and people enjoyed it.
”We even had a couple in their late 90s at one voting centre who absolutely wanted to vote electronically, did it without assistance and thought it was great.”
But e-voting faces hurdles for it to be extended to federal elections, requiring legislation and a way to cope with the size of the Senate ballot paper.
The other issue is the sheer number of machines that would be needed.
The spokesperson said the federal joint standing committee on electoral matters looked at e-voting three or four years ago but said no, not yet.
He said the Senate paper, particularly in NSW where there can be more than 100 candidates, could be incredibly long, up to a metre, whereas the ACT Legislative Assembly election ballot paper could fit on one screen.
Elections ACT deployed about 300 voting machines across selected polling places.
”If the AEC was to cover the entire early voting period and all voting centres, you’re looking at 600-odd early voting centres with multiple points, so thousands and thousands of these machines, which comes at a cost – not only purchasing them but maintaining software from election to election,” the spokesperson said.
Elections ACT will review the conduct of the poll and send a report to the Assembly.
”Whether we expand electronic voting past the early voting centres is in the wash-up,” the spokesperson said.
Some believe that once people vote early and use-e-voting they won’t go back, he said.
The spokesperson said that counting would continue officially until Saturday, although the bulk of votes would be processed by Friday.
Officially, the fifth seats in Ginninderra and Brindabella are still to be decided although some observers consider Liberal Candice Burch still a chance of pulling back Greens’ candidate Rebecca Vassarotti.
”We don’t put anything to bed until we officially declare them,” the spokesperson said.
Which means it’s best to wait to see if Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay hangs on in Ginninderra against Liberal Peter Cain, and who comes out on top between Labor’s Taimus Werner-Gibbings and the Greens’ Johnathan Davis in Brindabella.