Australian Elections Company Gets The Vote
"This program was critical. It had to work, our reputation was at stake. Well, it did work. In fact, it was absolutely flawless.”
- Richard Kidd, Australian Elections Company
When independent election services are needed, it goes without saying that the results have to be rock solid, particularly when the voting system is complicated and high stakes combine to make candidates contest close results. When Australian Election Company needed a new system, Stratos Technology Partners was able to give it a system that could stand up to independent scrutiny.
Brisbane-based Australian Elections Company (Aust E Co) provides independent electoral services to trade unions, private company boards, clubs and societies, and local government bodies.
Over the last 12 months it has processed over 160 Workplace Agreement or Enterprise Agreement Employee ballots. It has also supported 13 New South Wales local governments with electoral services.
Trade Unions also use Aust E Co when they carry out Protected Action ballots where union members decide whether or not to take industrial action.
Although most ballot systems are based on a common theme, each election often has its own business rules which needed to be implemented, for example affirmative action policies might require a certain minimum number of candidate types must be elected.
Most of the elections are paper-based but there is a move toward electronic ballots using the internet and telephone because they are more accessible to voters, reduce cost and results can be more quickly collated.
Robust vote counting software needed
To win the contract to provide electoral services for the NSW local government elections, Aust E Co needed robust vote counting software that supported their voting system.
New South Wales local government multiple councillor elections use a proportional representation system. This method of voting is known as optional preferential proportional representation.
The name of each candidate and their political party affiliation is shown on the ballot paper and the voter has the choice of group voting (i.e. usually for a particular party) or individual voting (for individual candidates).
In a group vote, only one group need be selected. In individual voting, candidates must be voted for in the order of preference of each voter. To be elected a candidate generally must gain a quota of the formal votes.
The quota cannot be worked out until the total number of formal first preference votes is known. Once the first preference count has taken place and informal ballot papers are removed the quota is calculated:
Quota = (total number of formal votes ÷ one more than the number of vacancies) + 1
For example, if there are 12,000 formal votes and 5 vacancies to be filled, the quota is:
12,000 formal votes ÷ 6 = 2,000 + 1 = 2001.
Therefore, in this example, a candidate needs at least 2001 votes to get elected.
The count is conducted by distributing votes according to the choices shown on the ballot paper. When candidates reach a quota and are elected, their surplus or extra votes above the quota are distributed to the remaining candidates.
Candidates with the lowest number of votes are then excluded and their ballot papers are redistributed according to the next choice shown. This process continues until all the vacancies are filled.
Candidates can also be elected if the remaining number of candidates in the count equals the number of vacant positions still to be filled.
"Looking back, I’d say Stratos was very responsive, relatively inexpensive, and very courteous. Nothing we threw at them seemed to faze them.”
– Richard Kidd, Australian Election Company
Stratos came highly recommended
Aust E Co had heard that Stratos had written ballot counting software before, and after seeing the results of the work, it had no hesitation in engaging Stratos for the job.
“We had heard of Stratos through our sister company in New Zealand. After looking at the work they’d done for them and compliments they had about the way they worked, we went ahead and hired them to do the job,” said Richard Kidd, Principal of Australian Election Company.
“The project was critical for us as we wouldn’t have been able to win the NSW elections business without the program they wrote for us.
“Not only did the proportional representation system have to be implemented, but special regulatory requirements also had to be put in too.
“Duke Ellis, our Technical Manager, was able to provide a comprehensive functional specification. He and Stratos worked closely together on the project.”
They were easy to work with
“Stratos turned out to be bright, courteous, helpful, very obliging and sharp. They responded to everything virtually overnight. They even picked up inconsistencies in the documents that had been provided to us by the Electoral Commission of New South Wales.”
The task is complex and it had to pass an independent audit by Deloitte. “Stratos was closely involved in the audit, it went without a hitch.”
“We also got Stratos to redevelop our website for us. Some of our elections run 24/7 during the voting period, which means when something goes wrong, it can be at any hour. We found Stratos’ after-hours support went above and beyond the call of duty.
“Looking back, I’d say Stratos was very responsive, relatively inexpensive, and very courteous. Nothing we threw at them seemed to faze them.”