Thursday, August 4, 2011

NSW Electoral Commission recants original false and misleading advice.

In an extraordinary, yet not surprising move, the NSW Electoral Commission, having previously claimed that copies of NSW Legislative Council election preference data files were not available, has now recanted its previous advice and published the detailed results of the election.

This about face decision came some three months after the State election

At first the Commission claimed the data files did not exist, Then when we made a submission under the NSW Information Act the Commission refused to consider the application as the prescribed $30.00 application fee had not been paid.

A second application, which included the payment of the prescribed fee, was made along with a request for details on the software certification documentation. This second request was submitted on July 5, 2011 (Received on July 7, 2011).

The Commission under the provision of the NSW information Act had until July 26 to respond. Come July 27 no response was received. So we immediately lodged an application for review by the NSW Office of Information Commission expressing our ongoing concern at the Electoral Commissions misuse and abuse of process.

On August 1, 2011 (some five days late) the NSW Electoral Commission finally replied to our FOI application, stating that the information requested has been published by the Commission and was now available on the NSW Electoral Commission's Web site.

The location of this data is not easy to find as it is hidden away within the context of the Commission's summery  A direct link to the data can be found here.

Review of the data published indicates that this information was available late June but was not notified until August 2011.

In a further example of inefficientcy, and what we consider may be a further attempt to again avoid scrutiny and accountability, the information published was over 3Giga Bytes in size and excluded details of ballot papers that recorded duplicate preference numbers or had preferences missing. Why this information was excluded is anyone guess?

The Commission went to extraordinary steps to filter out and expand the data file so that the data file provided was excessively large, much larger then was required or necessary. Instead of one record per ballot paper, as requested, the commission demonstrated just how inefficient its data management is that it decided to produce a data file that included a single record per preference. Causing the data file to be some 100 times bigger than would otherwise be required.

It also turns out the Commission’s software had been modified after the2011 State election. Certification documentation provided, dated June 2011. indictates that amendments had been made to correct a number of errors in the original software.

The software, costing taxpayers 10's of millions of dollars, was developed in India. (Why Australian Developers were not used uis another issue?) Software that is, effectively, a duplication of software that already exists and is used by the Australian Electoral Commission.

OK, It is recognised that the NSW electoral provisions do differ from the Senate electoral provision but the cost of modifying the AEC software would not have been anywhere near the amount of money spent by the NSW Electoral Commission in having India . There are still unanswered questions as to who owns the intellectual property rights and copy right of the software developed?

After a three month delay we still do not have a full set of data. Some of the issuing or duplicate preference data could have been a result of data-entry errors. Without access to the full data set we are prevented from undertaking a full and more comprehensive analysis or review.
On a more positive side, more like an admission of guilt then a jester of good will, the Commission refunded the $30 application fee.

The question still remains why was this data not made available during the data entry process? Why has it taken them so long to publish the data? . And why did they opt to publish only a subset of the data and it in such an inefficient format?

We hope the mistakes of the Commission will not be repeated in future public elections and that Parliament takes a long and serious hard look at the role of the NSW Electoral Commission and legislation pertaining to the method of counting our votes.

Name Size Last Modified
File:2011 LC FP First Preference Results by District-Grp-Candidate v1.xls 1013 KB 3/08/2011 19:26:00
File:Functional Requirements for Vote Count v3 2 - changes accepted.pdf 310 KB 19/07/2011 17:03:00
File:PRCC Fn Spec v3.1 Certificate of Legislative Compliance.pdf 23 KB 19/07/2011 17:37:00
File:PRCC Fn Spec v3.2 Certificate of Legislative Compliance - Final.pdf 164 KB 29/07/2011 13:09:00
File:PRCC LC Birlasoft Test Certificate v3.2.pdf 181 KB 20/07/2011 13:38:00
File:PRCC LG Birlasoft Test Certificate v3.2.pdf 177 KB 20/07/2011 13:38:00
File:Readme.doc 34 KB 13/07/2011 19:32:00
File:SGE 2011 LC 636988 KB 29/06/2011 16:44:00

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