Last month registered adults had to vote for their local council or risk a 75-dollar fine. Having only recently turned the legal age of 18, this was my first time voting and it was something I was looking forward to. Within my ward, it is necessary to visit a polling place in person to register your vote, as the option to vote by mail is not available. The Australian Electoral Commission however does send every registered candidate a letter informing them of their obligation to vote as well as a list of all the candidates who are participating.
Wanting to be an informed voter, I researched all of the candidates beforehand and already had in my mind my order of preferences before heading to the polling booth. Upon arriving to the location and battling my way through a host of individuals trying to sway my mind at the last minute, I finally reached the booth. I was shocked at the antiquated method that was being used in order to record that a person had voted. At several tables were electoral commission officials, each with a thick bound book. Within this book was line after line of names and details that were written in such a miniscule font that it was necessary to squint in order to read them. After giving the lady at the table my details she would procure a ruler and carefully rule a line through my name to indicate that I had indeed voted. This got me thinking, how easy would it be to make a mistake in ruling the line? Do we not live in the 21st century? Is there not an easier way?
The voting system could be markedly improved in both time efficiency and accuracy through the implementation of hands free barcode scanners. Instead of needlessly crossing out names manually on a book, why not use barcodes to make life much simpler? When the Australian Electoral Commission sends voters a letter to let them know that they are obligated to vote, they should have a barcode or a QR code printed upon the letter. The voter can then simply present the letter at the polling booth and have it scanned. In this way, there is no way that an error can be made in entering details and further to this, time is saved in having to flick through pages searching for a name. This system can further be integrated within all polling booths so that it is not necessary to manually reconcile all the names within the books depending on where people chose to vote, but instead this is all done electronically saving much time and hassle.
The current system that the council is using may have been effective for many years now, however as technology advances and new methods of becoming more efficient and time effective come along it is necessary to move with technology and embrace it rather than shying away from it. Through integrating handheld scanners the voting experience can become simpler and more user friendly for both the voter and the Electoral Voting Commission itself.