ALP presidency vote dogged by rigging warnings before it starts
The ALP’s contest for its national presidency has been dragged into allegations of potential vote-rigging even before it starts as doubts grow about the “integrity” of its planned online ballot.
Senior Labor officials told The Australian there were serious security issues surrounding the running of the secret ballot of party members because of easy access to their personal details held in head office files.
They said the company running the presidency ballot had the capacity to use high-security methods such as those used for online banking to safeguard voters — but the system remained vulnerable in relying on just a party member’s name, address, membership number and date of birth.
The ALP national presidency ballot — to run from May 4 to June 15 — has become a heated contest as Labor frontbencher Mark Butler seeks a second term as the left’s main candidate, and squares off against the right’s candidate, former treasurer Wayne Swan.
When nominations closed last Friday, two other contenders emerged, with Mich-Elle Myers running as an alternative left candidate with backing from construction, maritime and rail unions, and Labor senator Claire Moore running as part of Mr Butler’s group.
As the ALP increasingly shifts to online ballots for elections to party positions, security issues emerged this week with an official complaint to the NSW ALP about how one winning candidate from the central coast “assisted” party members when they voted to choose delegates for the ALP’s national conference in July.
The candidate, Labor staffer Emma Murphy, has confirmed in writing she “assisted” four party members with online secret ballots — but insists she acted on the “instruction” of party members, and consistent with guidelines, including when one “provided her birthday so that her vote could be cast”.
The future of an appeal against Ms Murphy’s election remains unclear, but party insiders said the incident highlighted a potential vulnerability in the online method more broadly for the ALP national presidency ballot affecting 550,000 party members nationwide.
“We’ve raised the issue of integrity (with the ALP’s national secretariat) because of past practices — we’ve seen rorting before,” a senior left source said.
“What we’ve asked is to put in place one safeguard — no running list of who’s voted. So you shouldn’t be able to tell who’s voted, which is something I could see happening.”
Another senior Labor figure said online voting was at its weakest in the latter stages of a ballot when it became clear who had not voted, and was not likely to do so.
It was then possible, without protection, for party insiders favouring one candidate to access membership details and “harvest votes” by voting on behalf of others using a single IP computer address.
The ALP’s national secretariat also faces complaints over allegedly “discriminatory” ballot rules that will deny party members aged over 66 the automatic right to online voting for the ALP national presidency.
Instead elderly voters are required to make traditional postal votes — unless they specially request online participation.