Inquiry into NSW COVID-19 voting options

·1-min read

The extensive use of postal ballots and the electronic voting system during elections held under COVID-19 restrictions is to be scrutinised by a NSW parliamentary committee.

The Upper House inquiry will examine the local government elections held on December 4 last year, as well as the four NSW by-elections held on February 12.

Committee chairman Robert Borsak MLC announced the inquiry on Tuesday.

"The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the conduct of elections in NSW, resulting in an expanded use of postal votes, as well as the NSW Electoral Commission's electronic voting platform, iVote," he said.

"Given the centrality of elections to the democratic process in NSW, it is important we understand the full effect of the decision to expand these voting methods and consider the appropriateness of their future use in a general election," Mr Borsak said.

The iVote system has allowed voters with the opportunity to cast their ballot online or over the telephone in state elections since 2011, and more recently in local government elections.

However, the NSW Electoral Commission has already said iVote will not be available for the next state election, in March 2023, as the software is being updated.

"The decision not to use iVote at the state general election in 2023 has not been driven by any concerns about cyber security matters in previous elections," a statement on the NSW Electoral Commission's website says.

The Electoral Commissioner will be recommending that telephone voting still be available for blind and low-vision residents.

The parliamentary committee will also examine the adequacy of material alerting voters to the February by-elections, in particular how this was communicated to non-English speaking communities.

Public submissions close on July 15.

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