I'm curious if Australia and Ireland (two of the most prominent users of ranked-choice voting) use machines to automate the electoral process.

  • 3
    Your headline question is about technology, not about politics. Your second question is actually a political question, and if you focus this question on that, then it's something that we can answer.
    – Joe C
    May 5 '21 at 7:31
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    I rephrased the title to be about the on-topic question, as @JoeC suggested.
    – Philipp
    May 5 '21 at 8:39

In Australia, the senate elections have been counted electronically for quite some time, with the software having existed in some form since at least 2003 (see the submission linked in the annotation) and said precursor was used for the 2004 election. [2] It is also used for commercial vote counting services provided by the AEC. [3][4] A video series "Down for the Count", was published roughly around that time period for educational purposes, and mentions the "help" of computers—I would interpret that as electronic counting of votes input via manual data entry, but that is of mostly historical interest. More current vote counting procedures were briefly touched upon in this SBS News report: Ballots are scanned with Fuji Xerox machines. This is the case with at least some of the state upper houses as well. I'm fairly sure lower house votes are still counted by hand in all elections though.

As for Ireland, I believe they trialled electronic voting machines in 2002, but plans to expand that in 2004 were scrapped due to auditability concerns. I am not aware of any use of electronic voting or vote counting machines other than that pilot program.


No, all ballots in those countries are still counted by hand.

While machines are getting better at being able to recognise written numbers, they're by no means perfect yet (and not yet better than humans at it).

  • Is that really the case? Certainly true before 2010s. Modern CNNs can get below 0.25 error rate on handwriting, granted on curated datasets. Perhaps that is still not good enough?
    – code11
    May 5 '21 at 18:12
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    0.25% error can still equate to nearly 1700 votes in the average Australian electorate, when you account for the number of candidates. Six electorates were won on smaller margins in 2019.
    – Joe C
    May 5 '21 at 18:57
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    Fascinating! I think you should include this in the answer since it explains clearly why even qualitatively acceptable recognition systems are unacceptable for this application.
    – code11
    May 5 '21 at 19:29
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    In Ireland there isn't that much enthusiasm for this sort of system. The current system works pretty well and many people don't see any real advantage in having the results on the same day versus the next day for most constituencies. There is a certain amount of reassurance in having a room with dozens of people counting and hundreds observing them. People are, justifiably in my opinion, concerned that errors or interference with computerised systems is harder to detect.
    – Eric Nolan
    May 6 '21 at 9:20

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