e-voting

August 12th, 2011 at 9:35 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at blogs:

Parliament unanimously passed the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) today, making some minor but necessary changes to our electoral administration. During the debate, Labour MP argued that we should be looking at introducing electronic voting. On Twitter, he asks for people’s thoughts on the issue.

I have just one: is he fucking mad?

The evidence from overseas is overwhelming: electronic voting can’t be trusted. The machines are black boxes. The software is proprietary. They may be run by people with partisan interests. And they’re hackable (not just in theory – in practice). There’s no way for the count to be audited, and no way to tell if the votes entered by voters are actually being recorded, or just sent to the bit bucket.

Electronic voting means putting elections, a vital part of our democratic infrastructure, in the hands of unaccountable, private entities, with poor security and no transparency. We’ll basically be relying on their goodwill that they won’t fix elections. Oh, and blind faith that they won’t leave a yawning security flaw allowing someone else to. As someone who takes democracy seriously, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.

I/S is thinking that the way the US did electronic voting is the only way. I have been pushing for some time that we should trial for one or more local body elections. Have the option to vote over the Internet, as well as a postal ballot. So no use of stand-alone voting machines – just use the Internet.

We do banking and tax over the Internet securely, and I am sure can do voting also. We even have a secure government login service which you can use to register companies etc.

And e-voting can be audit-able. Each person who votes can get an e-mail confirmation of how they voted. You could even audit a random sample of voters to ensure their record of voting matches the central record.

And one could have the code for the e-voting software released publicly, so that experts can verify that it is does what it is meant to do.

So I’m with Chris Hipkins. The time has come to at least be trialling e-voting. The logical opportunity is the 2013 local body elections.

UPDATE: The Government has responded to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee review of the 2010 local body elections. They have said:

  1. The Government will look at amending the Local Electoral Regulations 2001 to enable e-voting, with DIA to look into the merits and practicalities
  2. The Government will explore the option of making the Electoral Commission responsible for the oversight of local authority elections
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55 Responses to “e-voting”

  1. Pete George (23,425 comments) says:

    So I’m with Chris Hipkins. The time has come to at least be trialling e-voting.

    The time came ten years ago. So I’m with Chris Hipkins too. A good place to start would be e-referenda, they don’t have to be binding, but timely and seriously taken into account. Can’t be the sole means of voting though.

    Trialling in local body elections in 2013 is far too slow, that’s just stalling tactics. We are suposedly in the high tech 21st century aren’t we? Oh, that’s right, with antiquated last century party politics.

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  2. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    We have enough problems with fraudulent and dodgey voting without creating new fun and exciting oportunities for exploitation.

    All things considered we should be looking to dum down our system and go to the dyed finger option.

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  3. Pete George (23,425 comments) says:

    All things considered we should be looking to dum down our system and go to the dyed finger option.

    Press a left hand finger on the inkpad, or a right hand finger on the inkpad? If nothing else it would help with Name Calling for Dummies.

    And a dyed forehead for those who are politically exasperated.

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  4. Captain Neurotic (206 comments) says:

    Lol a Pete ‘Make your mark boy’???!

    I thought Labour were complaining that the poor didn’t have Internet/phone connections. Won’t this hurt their voting?

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  5. gump (1,615 comments) says:

    “We do banking and tax over the Internet securely, and I am sure can do voting also. ”

    ——

    Actually we don’t do those things securely (this is my area of expertise – I’m an IT security consultant).

    The real world risks with e-voting systems are chronicled at *great* length in the in the RISKS Digest (the comp.risks newsgroup).

    Don’t get me wrong, the paper based voting system we use in NZ has problems also. But e-voting systems introduce new problems for which there are no effective solutions.

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  6. davidp (3,573 comments) says:

    What problem are you trying to solve here? Once every three years I pop out on a Saturday to the Methodist church on Taranaki St and five minutes later I’ve voted. It is one of my easier ineractions with government. The results of the election are known that evening which is a pretty good turnaround.

    To implement this electronically (with the GLS and IVS components DPF mentions) means that every voter will have to rock on up to a Post Office at some stage, prove their identity using their passport (which I believe is the only proof that DIA accept for IVS), and be issued an IVS user ID and password. Half those people will forget either their user ID or password. Password recovery currently involves sending an e-mail to an address, which means the whole system is only as secure as thousands of corporate e-mail systems, Hotmail, and GMail. There is going to have to be a service desk involved to handle these and other issues. Permanent residents aren’t eligible for IVS (since they don’t have NZ passports) but they are eligible to vote, so we’ll have to work out some other enrollment channel for them.

    Then we’ll need a project to implement the actual voting. Government already blows tens of millions of bucks on IT projects that either never work, or are abandoned before they’re finished. I’d budget $30million for the voting component, partly because you’re going to have testers and auditors all over it to make sure there is no chance comspiracy nuts are going to question it after an election. Then budget for the IVS registration… maybe $50 per voter for 3million voters equals $150million. I’d want maybe 50 people on the service desk before an election. You wouldn’t want to find that people couldn’t vote because they’d fogotten their IVS user ID.

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  7. nonpartisan (41 comments) says:

    I’m in favour of e-voting and I agree with Pete George that non-binding referenda would be a good place to start while ironing out the kinks. Gump may be right about new problems for which there are no effective solutions, but there is no harm in letting the DIA investigate the practicalities.

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  8. hmmokrightitis (1,582 comments) says:

    What gump said plus 1. This is part of what I do as well. Secure banking? Tui ad. Seriously. Ask the big name Australian bank who has 350 of its servers inside their DMZ still infected with Conficker, years after it first hit, and they still cant get rid of it.

    You think computer systems are secure? LMFAO, not even close. Think they cant be hacked? I have a wireless network guru on my team who can hack into any wireless network within seconds, using tools freely available on the interweb. One of our websites is hosted offshore in a massively replicated facility that allows us to refresh pages within a second as they are hacked and broken, the process of which is constant – its a site dedicated to stopping child pornograhpy, and people dont want that to happen. We do :) Think multiple site versions, constantly cycling and replacing. Bots never sleep :)

    Could it be done? Yes. Would it be safe and secure? No. Reliable? Nope. Expensive. Without a shadow of a doubt. Why waste money? As stated above, its not broken, dont bother fixing it. This would be an epic fail of truly mammoth proportions.

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  9. meh (165 comments) says:

    Seems a lot of IT Sec geeks hang about here (me 3) – having recently worked at a large govt dept (first time trying public sector, never again!) I can categorically say I wouldn’t be trusting the govt to correctly fund and implement any sort of secure system, let alone one of this level of importance.

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  10. rolla_fxgt (311 comments) says:

    I used to be all for e-voting, but now after some experience of talking to some who run elections in remote areas of NZ, I’m against it. There are some areas where there is no cellphone or landline coverage available, effectively making those voters 2nd class voters by making them have to leave their homes to vote at a traditional polling place.

    I’d be all for it if everywhere had the oppertunity to use it, but untill that stage, I think its a nice to think about, but wouldn’t be that great in practice.

    Also how do you get around voter fraud/coersion? Say that a party/candidate supporter goes around the electorate door knocking on the day, asking if people have voted, and if not would they like to do it, its easy and I can help you do it right here, they pull out their netbook or similar, and log the person in and let them vote. Perhaps they’re honnest and don’t give them a speil, but lets say they aren’t and they say, well since I’ve come to help you vote, perhaps you could vote for me? and this is why I think you should.
    Or even worse the person answers the door and says they cant be bothered voting, or they have language difficulties or are frail etc, and the person doing the door knocking does their voting for them. I’d think this could be easily done, if you tricked the person into voting by saying that it was illegal not to vote, and they could go to jail/be deported etc for not voting, but hey I can vote for you if you want, I just need to see your details, and then we’re both better off.
    Or even a wife saying something like no sex unless you vote for X, at least at a polling booth you can lie to them and say that you voted for them, a little harder to do when at home if they’re looking over your shoulder.

    Or as happened in the OUSA elections a few years back, the winning candidate for president was disquallified for holding a party and letting people vote at laptops open at the party.

    At least the problems of overt coercion/voter fraud can be largely overcome in a both, at home, its not so easy to do.

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  11. Pete George (23,425 comments) says:

    As stated above, its not broken, dont bother fixing it.

    I agree that three yearly voting is not broken.

    What has never been built is a reasonable and timely means of gauging public opinion on important issues, that’s where I think the focus needs to be.

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  12. kowtow (8,153 comments) says:

    Everything has to be so easy these days.

    Theres’ a lot to be said for making the effort to get up off your fat lardy arse once every 3 years and actually casting a ballot.

    That’s the least thing so many do in modern democracies.

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  13. dog_eat_dog (774 comments) says:

    Why not just tie it into the IRD secure login area? a) It’s secure enough for our tax details and b) Everyone should be aware of their tax affairs.

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  14. meh (165 comments) says:

    dog_eat_dog – IRD don’t exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to IT projects… it’d end up going way over budget and then get shelved.

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  15. tas (609 comments) says:

    The secret ballot is very important, as it prevents coercion. You can’t guarantee this if people vote from home.

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  16. simonway (381 comments) says:

    One kind of “e-voting” that would get around some of I/S’s criticisms is to have people vote by paper ballot and use electronic machines to do the counting. Then you have a paper trail and can do hand recounts if necessary.

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  17. Bob R (1,358 comments) says:

    Voting should be via some return mail system to screen out more of the voters with low levels of executive function.

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  18. KevinH (1,194 comments) says:

    I agree with DPF, e-voting is to vulnerable to fraud for it to be considered an option. If it does gain traction I would move to quarantine e-voting returns in the same way as specials are considered.
    What we should be looking at is making voting compulsory as it is in Australia, that way we achieve are more representative vote with a higher turnout.
    The question is would e-voting improve on the abysmal turnout, 50-55%, that we get presently.

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  19. RJL (145 comments) says:

    What do you think that chances are that DPF would be exactly the sort of “consultant” who would be contracted by National to advise on the development of some kind of e-voting system?

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  20. Scott Chris (6,017 comments) says:

    I can see why e-voting appeals to PG.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_voting

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  21. Bandycoot (29 comments) says:

    My question would be how to and/or how long it takes to ensure that those who have e-voted have not also gone out to physically vote as well. Unless you are going to get every polling station set up with internet access so that they can verify in real time I see significant hold ups and potential for fraud just in this aspect alone.

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  22. Viking2 (11,346 comments) says:

    E voting has oneplusespecially in local body elections.
    We could ensure that the only ones to vote were the ratepayers and not all the “its a nice to have crowd” that infest local body elections.
    Now that makes good sense to me. Think of the rate savings to be made when all the non ratepayers find they have to pay for fireworks, concerts, art galleries and other peoples sports etc.

    Fertile ground I would think.

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  23. nonpartisan (41 comments) says:

    I didn’t really give much thought to the secret ballot aspect of our current voting system. This is a critical function of the booth and I’m not sure how e-voting could ever provide an equivalent function unless you were accessing a terminal in a voting booth – but then, what would be the point?

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  24. hmmokrightitis (1,582 comments) says:

    @RJL, probably the same levels of chance in you being able to tie your own shoe laces I suspect – low to zero. What a truly stupid remark to make. I still find it hilarious that people who dont know shit from clay – such as you for example – squeak when confronted with headlines about consultants earning an astronomical $1,000 a day.

    Sweet jesus, $1,000 a day barely buys you a test resource – we charge ours out at $1050 a day on long term engagements. Thankfully dipshits like you dont make decisions for us.

    Oh, and have a nice day. From those of us in the private sector who make more than $1K a day. :)

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  25. Elaycee (4,351 comments) says:

    Of course, Idiot / Savant may just be complaining because e-voting would make it difficult for his outfit to be able to entice voters with a KFC voucher…

    But I agree it should be trialled – perhaps initially at local body or referendum level first?

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  26. RJL (145 comments) says:

    @hmmokrightitis,

    DPF is hardly an unbiased commentator. If his self-reported interests, contacts, and expertise are to be believed, then he is a plausible (although possibly risible) consultant for this sort of project (around policy and design, anyway). So, no wonder he thinks it is a good idea.

    No one has spoken about charge-out rates, what are you talking about?

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  27. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    While mindful of the danger some IT experts express here, I see no harm in trialling a non-binding system. It would be good if only to highlight the times when politicians ignore the electorate.

    Also we’re not looking for a flawless system, just something that works well enough. While online banking may not be absolutely secure what is? It would appear secure enough that people have enough confidence in it to make use of it.

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  28. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    RJL – Or maybe he just sincerely believes it is a good idea.

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  29. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Just to highlight a point:

    The idea of democracy is that the majority decides what is law. Surely then when the politicians ignore the electorate and pass unpopular legislation, then those politicians have essentially hijacked the democratic process by ignoring the people who elected them to office. This happens routinely yet we do not act as if the entire democratic process has been corrupted and destroyed. So why do we have such fear that electronic voting may be at risk of corruption? While I don’t have any expertise in this area I would speculate that the risk of corrupted e-votes would be somewhat less than the risk politicians will ignore the people.

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  30. tvb (4,315 comments) says:

    E voting should happen. I would wager that nearly every voter under 60 will chose it You can tick the appropriate box on the enrollment card and that process can be done electronically as well. The cost saving will be substantial. It should be trialled both local body and some electorates. The fraud issue would be better managed than the current system.

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  31. RJL (145 comments) says:

    @Weihanna …maybe he just sincerely believes it is a good idea.

    Maybe he does, but it is still an idea that he might plausibly profit from.

    @Weihanna The idea of democracy is that the majority decides what is law.

    No it isn’t. Democracy is government by the people or (as in our case) their elected representatives. It is not majority rule. Majority rule is a much simpler and considerably more flawed idea than democracy.

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  32. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    RJL – “Maybe he does, but it is still an idea that he might plausibly profit from.”

    No one is unbiased. Unless you have specific reason (other than a vague reference to possible contacts) to believe his support is motivated by something other than a belief that it is a good idea, then it would seem not worth mentioning. IMHO.

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  33. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    RJL – “Democracy is government by the people or (as in our case) their elected representatives. It is not majority rule. Majority rule is a much simpler and considerably more flawed idea than democracy.”

    Parliament is indeed run by majority rule so I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. In our system of governance Parliament is supreme and a majority of elected representatives get to pass legislation. That is the essence of what goes on. You may quibble with some of the finer details but I’m not sure what the relevance would be.

    I think it would be ridiculous to suggest that those elected representatives are intended to act in opposition to the people that elected them. That would undermine the whole notion of being a “representative”. So again I think it is a fair statement to say that when politicians vote against public opinion then they are corrupting the system even if not violating any rules.

    Point is, if some shadowy organization hacked into an e-voting system and shifted the result by, say, 10 percent, you would be outraged because the elected representatives wouldn’t be a fair representation of the electorate. But what is substantially different about politicians taking it upon themselves to ignore the public? Same outcome in my view.

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  34. leftyliberal (642 comments) says:

    @Weihana: Pure majority rule differs quite a bit from our parliamentary system and IS fundamentally less suitable. Firstly, majority really only applies to the small subset of our representatives (and even then not everyone in that majority may agree with the vote due to whipping). Secondly, some of that small subset is elected by majority vote of a subset of the total electorate (the electoral votes). This allows parliament to enact things that may be unpopular (thus impossible to push through under majority rule) yet necessary. Ofcourse, it also allows parliament to enact things that are unpopular and unnecessary as well ;)

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  35. Mick Mac (1,091 comments) says:

    As long as they don’t restrict our speech at anytime let alone election year. or how much we as individuals can spend.

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  36. RJL (145 comments) says:

    @Weihana: No one is unbiased. Unless you have specific reason …

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/disclosure_statement

    So you think that somebody who “established National’s initial Internet presence”, is “a fellow of Internet New Zealand Inc”, and “a Director of the (.nz) Domain Name Commission Ltd”, would not plausibly have a vested interest in e-voting specifically via some sort of internet implementation.

    Of course, that experience might be construed to give DPF’s opinions on the matter some credibility. But that same experience means that he also credibly has a conflict of interest.

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  37. KevinH (1,194 comments) says:

    The processes and instruments of democracy, such as the voting systems we adopt ,and the mechanisms we utilise to vote will constantly evolve as attitudes change and technologies improve.
    However it’s not so much the processess that we should be concerned with. In England this week we witnessed what happens when we don’t connect with each other, where communities break apart.
    For the young people involved in the riots there is no sense of possession, of being included in anything. They are surrounded by ostentatious wealth to the extreme, but it is not them, by them, or for them.
    The challenge politicians face throughout Europe and the United Kingdom is to map out a future for these young people that includes them, gives them possession in their destinies. I know that sounds churlish and idealistic but failing to act is worse.

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  38. leftyliberal (642 comments) says:

    Personally I agree that non-binding referenda seem the most obvious place to get an e-voting scheme up and running, as the security aspects aren’t as important. The logistics is the tricky bit here not the security (ignoring the “it’ll never be 100% secure” problem, which applies equally to our pen and paper system.)

    For general elections, it’s not broke, no point trying to fix it. I personally thoroughly enjoy the 3-yearly trek to the poll booth – community spirit and all that.

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  39. leftyliberal (642 comments) says:

    @Mick Mac: Getting somewhat offtopic, but I always find the outrage that I can’t spend my millions attempting to influence the public’s vote to be amusing.

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  40. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    leftyliberal – while I acknowledge those points I don’t think they really change the essence of my argument. Whipping doesn’t change the fact that a bill passes by majority vote and also local electorates are designed to give local representation and are not intended to undermine majority rule as such, which is why we now have proportional representation to ensure the overall national electorate is adequately represented at the same time as allowing effective local representation. Indeed the implementation of MMP underscores my point that people get annoyed when Parliament doesn’t represent the people properly. And now people are upset at MMP because they perceive it doesn’t represent them properly (by giving too much power to minority influences and thereby undermining the majority).

    So while I acknowledge the system isn’t purely majority rule, I don’t think these aspects of the system are, or should be, intended specifically with the purpose of undermining the notion that a majority should rule. And when politicians routinely ignore the public, the public is justifiably annoyed. Therefore I see no reason to be overly fearful that hackers might alter an election result. While the possibility should be guarded against, the mere possibility shouldn’t be a reason to avoid that type of system just as the mere possibility a politician may ignore his constituency isn’t a sufficient reason to do away with representative democracy. In fact politicians ignoring the public appears to be a daily reality whereas hackers targetting an e-voting system is more hypothetical (but no less real of a threat).

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  41. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    RJL – Looks like speculation to me.

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  42. leftyliberal (642 comments) says:

    @Weihana: We’re in agreement by the sounds of things. I was merely pointing out that many decisions that parliament makes would be directly against a majority public opinion, and that that’s not always a bad thing (I’d hazard to guess that it’s more often than not a good thing – you don’t ever want to be in a minority under majority rule…)

    I do agree that having a way for the public to make their opinions known via non-binding e-referenda may well highlight this and perhaps work to reduce the occurence of unpopular, unnecessary legislation from being passed – at the very least it would force the politicians to explain why they’re going against the popular consensus. In addition, it would give a vehicle for more folk to have their say (less barrier to entry not always being a good thing, but it may be useful here?)

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  43. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    leftyliberal – The essence of free speech is being able to communicate with others to share ideas in order to influence opinions, whether they be your own opinion or someone else’s opinion. I am at a loss why influencing the opinions of others has come to be some kind of evil. The only evil, if it can be referred to as such, is the idiot who allows their mind to be influenced without reason or rational thought involved. But that is not my business and it is certainly not the business of the government to decide when someone can be influenced by public debate and when they cannot be. Each individual is responsible for what they believe and how their beliefs are influenced. Government should not interfere.

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  44. RJL (145 comments) says:

    @Weihana

    You are missing the point that we vote for representatives to govern us, not merely to robotically poll and enact the decisions that the majority of people agree with. We are voting for our leaders not for unthinking functionaries.

    Also, when people complain about “politicians routinely ignor[ing] the public” what they usually mean is “politicians ignoring a small faction of the public who are frothing at the mouth about an issue that the majority of the public either have no interest in or tacitally agree with the politicans”.

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  45. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    leftyliberal – I agree that minority interests, and often minority rights, are ignored by the majority. That is why I would prefer a formal constitution that limited the power of Parliament and gave more power to the courts to strike out legislation which violates basic rights like freedom of speech etc.

    But on the other hand I think the legislature and the executive should be as representative of the people as possible.

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  46. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    RJL – Perhaps others do. I think I am quite capable of thinking for myself and I do not require a leader. I am not a sheep and I am not part of some politicians flock.

    That’s not to say I don’t want politicians to think because they have to deal with things that don’t always have the public’s attention and they also have to consider whether the public is being consistent. For instance, the public might simultaneously demand excessive spending at the same time as demanding huge tax cuts. It’s fair enough in that situation for a politician to question the public’s consistency.

    But as to your suggestion that the politicians are merely ignoring a small faction of the public, I don’t think that is always true. True is some cases but not always true. Problem is the public has to vote wholesale on policies they don’t get to choose individual policies to support and that is what allows politicians to get away with ignoring them on some issues, not merely the fact that the public do not care.

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  47. RJL (145 comments) says:

    Weihana: Perhaps others do. I think I am quite capable of thinking for myself and I do not require a leader.

    Yes, but you are an individual not a community/nation.

    Also “thinking for yourself” is not the opposite of “agreeing to be part of a community led by democratically elected representatives”.

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  48. RJL (145 comments) says:

    Weihana: Looks like speculation to me.

    It sure is.

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  49. BeaB (2,104 comments) says:

    I am all for e-voting. It’s madness in this day and age to be wandering down to the local school to stand in a wee booth with a crayon. Those of you so worried about security (and it’s only a vote after all) surely must be more worried by all the possible gaps in the present system and yet it rarely happens that someone does anything dodgy. Why bother, after all.

    I’d go further and say with modern communications we no longer need someone to ‘represent’ us when we could all have our own say on any issue – or on a set of options if the political parties don’t want to keep control of us with our wayward habits.

    When Southland had to have someone ride a horse and go by boat to Wellington to speak for the region a house of representatives made some sense. The whole system is antiquated and anachronistic.

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  50. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    RJL – A politician isn’t a nation either. That’s the whole point, the community should decide, not individual politicians imposing their will on the public, often because of special interests.

    I can concede that there are many things we get politicians to do that the public doesn’t really consider directly, but there are some issues which the public does have an opinion on and sometimes the politicians simply ignore them. A good example is medical marijuana which two thirds of the public support. However two thirds of our politicians voted against it knowing that many who support it will base their vote on other issues such as the economy.

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  51. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    BeaB – more direct democracy has some appeal to me but on the other hand there are many issues which are interrelated and require decision makers (whether they be politicians or the people directly) to have a detailed and broad knowledge of what government is doing. For instance if you want to increase spending you have to think about how to raise the funds.

    I wonder if a hybrid system may be possible where elected representatives do most of the work but the public is able to weigh in when they can see their representatives brazenly ignoring them. Perhaps the public could have a veto thus preventing Parliament from passing unpopular legislation.

    At the moment I think it would simply be a good idea if we had a non-binding e-voting system which could be used to contrast public opinion with what the government is doing.

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  52. nasska (11,112 comments) says:

    It seems that most people who have commented are in favour of non binding referenda. Can anyone explain the downside of binding referenda since they constitute the purest form of democracy?

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  53. Pete George (23,425 comments) says:

    Can anyone explain the downside of binding referenda since they constitute the purest form of democracy?

    We still need to vest responsibility in our elected representatives, they have access to much more information and expert opinion than normal people do. And we hope they consider the greater good rather than base decisions on narrow selfish views, which is what votes in a referendum will tend to reflect.

    Politicians should be guided by public opinion but not bound by it except for specific clearly defined issues like the MMP referendum.

    The key to getting effective influence from public opinion is it needs to be determined early in the process. The petition and referendum we currently have takes many months minimum to happen, far too far along the process. If public opinion could be reasonably accurately be determined quickly, early in the decision making process, it could guide what direction any expert research and decision making should take.

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  54. nasska (11,112 comments) says:

    PG

    You are putting too much weight on the abilities of our elected representatives versus the concept of democracy which goes something along the lines of “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” which our MPs willfully disregard. They are entrusted to make decisions for us not against us because they think they know best.

    I accept in total the points made in your last paragraph. The trick is making the bastards listen.

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  55. Maaik (33 comments) says:

    Several contributors have already made the point that we need the ballot box and polling booth to protect aspects of our democracy. These are not the problems, the real problems are the error prone human process of counting the votes. That is also the area where cheating happens, not that we have ever had that problem here….

    The Hollerith corporation were responsible for tabulating the USA census a hundred years ago. They developed the art of the punched card, and went on to become IBM. Punched cards are indeed old hat, but they represent an ideal solution to the election day problems.

    I propose that the voting process be a human operator looking up a voter on an electronic or manual system (as it is today), then pushing a button on a machine that spits out a voting card containing a serial number. The voter takes the card into the booth, inserts it into the voting machine (that can be mechanical), or even marks the card with a pencil. The card is then placed into a locked box (just like it is today). The process of counting the cards can be electro-mechanical, with the option of auditing batches by hand (hard but not impossible). The results will be correct, subject to scrutiny, and box-stuffing and strategic losing of votes will be apparent due to the serial numbers on the cards.

    Is this the best of both worlds? Whatever happens, voting from a PC somewhere on the Internet should never happen – for all the reasons already stated.

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