Senate to reveal voting code, whether the AEC likes it or not

Senate passes motion to table source code

The Senate today passed a motion requiring the release of the source code for software that is used to count votes in upper house elections.

Hobart lawyer Michael Cordover last year applied to the Australian Electoral Commission for the release of the source code but was rebuffed by the agency.

In October, following the fraught outcome of the Senate election, Cordover wrote a freedom of information application to the AEC requesting the "source code for the software used to conduct the count of votes for a Senate election" and documentation of any data formats used by the software.

The AEC rejected the FOI application and refused to release the 'EasyCount' source code, citing section 45 of the FOI Act, which exempts "documents that disclose trade secrets".

Cordover appealed the AEC's decision, including earlier this year applying to the Office of the Information Commissioner for a review of the AEC's decision. The OAIC revealed in June, however, that it would be unable to make a ruling on the appeal before the organisation ceases to operate under cost-saving measures announced by the government in the budget earlier this year.

Cordover launched an appeal on crowdfunding site Pozible to help pay for an appeal of the FOI decision at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The motion moved today by Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon also requires the tabling of correspondence between the office of Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson and the AEC about the FOI request, including the attempt by the AEC to have Cordover declared a "vexatious applicant".

Rhiannon said there was no justification for the AEC to refuse to release information on how the Senate vote is counted.

"The AEC are not only doing the wrong thing in refusing a legitimate FOI request. In the wake of the WA federal election debacle they are further damaging their own reputation," the senator said in a statement

"The AEC hard line position in trying to discredit Mr Cordover as a vexatious litigant is an abuse of the law under which the AEC operates and raises the very relevant question what do they have to hide

"Why would you stop the public knowing how the Senate vote is counted? After all the problems with the 2013 federal Senate election the AEC should be working to build confidence in the counting system."

The AEC has been approached for comment.

The full text of the motion reads:

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To move-That there be laid on the table by the Special Minister of State, no later than 15 July 2014: (a) all correspondence and documents, whether written or in email form, from the Special Minister of State's office and/or the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) relevant to:
(i) the decision of the AEC to have Mr Michael Cordover declared a vexatious applicant, and
(ii) the assertion that Mr Matthew Landauer colluded with Mr Cordover to harass the AEC; and
(b) the source code of the software by which Senate vote counts are conducted.

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Tags freedom of informationAustralian Electoral Commission (AEC)source codesenateOffice of the Australian Information CommissionerLee Rhiannon

More about Administrative Appeals TribunalAustralian Electoral Commission

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