The Australian Electoral Commission and Victorian academics may finally have solved the problem of long queues on election day. Picture: Cameron Richardson
The Australian Electoral Commission and Victorian academics may finally have solved the problem of long queues on election day. Picture: Cameron Richardson

Say goodbye to polling day pain

EXCLUSIVE: Long queues and lack of snags are two of the biggest voter complaints on election days but a collaboration between the Australian Electoral Commission and Victorian academics may have the first - very first world - problem finally sorted.

Using state-of-the-art computer modelling designed by Deakin University boffins, the AEC can now more accurately predict how many staff to employ at polling booths across the country, potentially alleviating long lines and wait times.

As a result, this year's federal election should have shorter queues and fewer frayed tempers at busy polling booths than in elections past.

The computer simulation modelling technology used by the AEC this federal election will help deliver shorter queues at polling booths than ever before. Picture: Supplied
The computer simulation modelling technology used by the AEC this federal election will help deliver shorter queues at polling booths than ever before. Picture: Supplied

The election date will be announced shortly, and is widely expected to be on May 11 or 18.

AEC spokesman Evan Ekin-Smyth said in the modern and largely digitised world, people were less accustomed to, and tolerant of, queuing than previous generations.

"People very rarely have to queue these days, except maybe at the bank, a sporting event or to vote. In a way we are administering an analogue system in a world of digital expectations," he said of Australia's traditional pencil, paper and ballot box voting system.

Project leader Associate Professor Michael Johnstone from Deakin's Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) said the new computer simulation technology and data analysis would improve the voting experience for millions of Australians.

"Queues at polling places are unfortunately unavoidable due to variations in the arrival rates of electors but our model can provide an estimate of queue times and behaviour, helping electoral officers to more accurately predict resource requirements for materials and personnel, and to find the right balance between polling place performance and cost," he said.

Mr Ekin-Smyth said valuable data about queuing had been gained at recent by-elections, including Bennelong, and had been used in the development of the new technology.

"We have worked very hard this electoral cycle to further improve the voter experience," he said. "For the 2019 federal election there will be an increase in the number of AEC polling officials issuing votes, an increase to the number of voting screens in polling venues, improvements to the setup of polling places to allow easier throughput, and the use of mini-queues to assist the flow of voters."

AEC spokesman Evan Ekin-Smyth said in the modern and largely digitised world, people were less accustomed to queuing than previous generations. Picture: Troy Snook
AEC spokesman Evan Ekin-Smyth said in the modern and largely digitised world, people were less accustomed to queuing than previous generations. Picture: Troy Snook

The AEC had awarded the Deakin IISRI team a three-year contract to expand its work and further improve the accuracy and range of computer-based models to assist in planning, resourcing, and delivering of Australian elections in the future, Assoc. Prof. Johnstone said

Mr Ekin-Smyth said about 11 million voters were expected to descend on about 7000 polling booths this federal election day.

Votes would also be cast at the AEC's 500-plus early voting centres and via overseas, mobile and postal voting services.