This Perth startup is developing a new voting system that could deliver election results in just minutes

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VeriVote Perth startup

As Australia sits in political limbo more than a week after voting, a group of Perth entrepreneurs is developing a voting system that could see election results announced just minutes after polling booths close.

Veri.vote CEO Adrian Petersen and four friends were motivated to investigate the technology after reading reports of more than 1000 ballots being lost in a state election in 2014.

“Ballot box voting presents many issues for governments and voters,” Petersen tells StartupSmart.

“Votes can easily be misplaced, voters can vote multiple times, and the counting of votes requires a huge amount of government resources.

“We are really excited to start the conversation around how we can improve our democracy given the ability to easily and efficiently represent the general public’s voice in how to run our country.”

Bringing voting into the 21st century

He says the veri.vote team wants to utilise technology and the blockchain to replace a voting system that is 150 years old with a more transparent and accurate process.

“Veri.vote is designed so that it may be implemented in polling booths, or voters may vote from home,” Petersen says.

The system will protect voters’ identity with sophisticated cryptography that will allow it to save votes permanently while maintaining full anonymity, Petersen says.

“We aim to work with electoral commissions to ensure the fairest possible voting process for the Australian public, whether that be from polling booths or the comfort of your own home,” he says.

“The blockchain is the key technical innovation that allows veri.vote to store votes permanently in a public forum.”

And the Perth-based team says this technology can be applied to far more than just national elections.

“The addressable market worldwide is in the billions,” Petersen says.

“In Australia alone, the 2013 federal election cost $192 million.”

Seed funding

Petersen says veri.vote will utilise a SaaS model and sell its service to enterprise.

“We aim to work with large organisations and government to deliver the fairest elections, and to provide our platform as a SaaS for smaller NGOs,” he says.

Veri.vote has just been accepted into the Vocus Upstart’s accelerator program, scoring $40,000 in seed funding and a range of mentorship.

“Our main priority right now is the continued development of a platform that people can trust, and to get in front of key decision makers in universities and local councils,” Petersen says.

“Our platform will have the most impact in developing [countries] where citizens cannot trust in their government to hold fair elections.”

Vocus Upstart managing director Rob Nathan  says he was impressed by veri.vote’s core team and the number of Perth hackathons they’ve won.

“We selected Veri.Vote on the strength and diversity of their team,” Nathan says.

“In addition to being bright and talented they are also very young.

“The best thing they will get from the accelerator program is advice and mentoring from 30 plus mentors in the program who have many years of experiences in building businesses.”

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Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.
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  • http://About.me/danielmumby Daniel Mumby

    An excellent idea, which has been needed. Why?
    Because in about 5 minutes I could describe a way in which, with the help of a small group of supporters, A person could game the results of about 8 lower house seats so as to ensure victory by one political party or another.
    And if They were betting on the outcome, They could ensure that they profited from it.

    • jackbrucesimpson

      How? By stealing votes?

      • http://About.me/danielmumby Daniel Mumby

        Simple. You could look up 100 names on the electoral roll in each of the 5 most marginal seats in Australia. Then have 100 simmarily unethical in each seat vote in a proscribed way at 15 seperate Polling stations in each electorate. Assuming they are in the same state, you now have 1500 bogus votes for your candidate in each seat, plus 7500 senate primaries.
        Why? “People voting in polling booths are not required to provide identification and so could just as easily have been coerced, bribed or substituted during that voting process.”
        Or in this fraudulent scenario, determine who gets to govern.
        This blatant opportunity to game a system shouldn’t be allowed to continue.

        • jackbrucesimpson

          I think the difficulty with this is that within a few hours you’d have a situation where multiple polling booths were reporting multiple cases of people coming in to vote who has already been marked off – way higher than the typical background level. The federal police would then be called in to investigate.

          • http://About.me/danielmumby Daniel Mumby

            Wouldn’t happen that way. Each ‘volunteer’ would only vote once at each polling booth. And there is no electronic roll -people are marked off at a booth on a manual roll, without having to show ID.
            And there isn’t CCTV with facial recognition software, so what would police investigate?

          • jackbrucesimpson

            I was thinking of the cases where the real person on the roll and the fake person vote at the same booth then people at the electoral booths will start to see pretty quickly cases of multiple voting and be reporting that. A conspiracy like this with at least hundreds of people being involved wouldn’t be secret for long.

          • http://About.me/danielmumby Daniel Mumby

            Jack, I’ve very simply described how anyone could do it at any election. You don’t have to believe, but make no mistake it’s completely doable in this day and ago. Some 6 seperate parliamentary committees have looked at introducing reforms over the last 25 years and not only have decided to implement electronic voting, but steadfastly refused to fix these aging hole, even though these very holes that I have described have been identified in a number of the reports themselves. (My quote above was directly from one of the reports).
            So you have to wonder why; why would neither side want to fix these gaps?
            Because it is entirely possible for the system to be gamed, in this any a dozen other ways. And if I can discover it, do you think that it might be possible that some nebulous minor party might attempt to do just such a similar thing to give them a seat at the table? Or worse, control the balance of power? Of course it is. Whether it’s probable, or likely is irrelevant-the fact that it could be done, should be enough incentive for any government of integrity to legislate immediately to plug the gap. Look how long it took to pass legislation to change senate voting procedure prior to the last election-done in just weeks.

          • jackbrucesimpson

            I would agree that if we didn’t have compulsory voting, the scenario you have posed would potentially be a big problem, because if voting fell to 60-70% then it would be extremely difficult to determine if people were faking the votes of people who never turned up. However, under our system of compulsory voting you would see a significant level of people trying to vote where the faker had voted before or after them which would be clear to the voting booth attendants. That is why I disagree about the danger of this issue – the AEC would be calling federal police within hours, and then every fake voter who turned up whose name had already been ticked off would be off to a cell to be interrogated.

  • Kevin Reece

    Looks like you have the timely backing of messers Turnbull and Shorten! http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jul/10/australian-election-turnbull-shorten-back-electronic-voting