Vote counting goes remote

The chief electoral office will be using remote computer equipment to tally the votes in this week's election.

The chief electoral office will be using remote computer equipment to tally the votes in this week’s election.

Use of a Unisys ES7000 running Unix, based at the vendor’s premises, means the office gains access to a more powerful machine and one that has already been “stabilised in a fully established site”, says electoral office spokesman Joe Glover (pictured above).

This contrasts with the previous election, when two IBM machines were specifically acquired on lease and placed at the Avalon television studios.

As ever, votes will be tallied manually at each polling station and phoned in to the returning officer for the electorate. When electorate totals have been established the returning officer will key the data into a PC, which sends it over a virtual private network to the electoral office machine. There the figures for each electorate will be stored in a Progress database.

This data will be made available to broadcasters and the figures will be displayed as they come in on a publicly accessible website, www.electionresults.govt.nz. The site has been maintained at the past two elections.

There will be a few changes to procedure; results for Maori seats will be submitted by returning officers in each general electorate, then totalled over the whole Maori electorate of which these territories form part, rather than having specific Maori returning officers do it.

In procedures prior to the election, changes have been made in online submission of candidates’ names.

These can now either be done by the returning officer or directly by the office of the candidate’s party, sending all their candidate names in bulk.

Much work also remains to be done after the election, in collating and verifying final vote totals and formatting them for tabling in Parliament. “Election night is only a small part of the job,” says Glover.

The PCs for the network will be supplied by the Justice department out of its own stock.

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