Online voting for 2016

September 4th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

has announced:

Local Government Minister Chris Tremain today announced that a trial of online voting will take place in the 2016 local authority elections.

“Online transactions are the way of the future and the Government is committed to rolling out digital services for New Zealanders,” says Mr Tremain.

“I have asked the Department of Internal Affairs to put together a working party from across government and local authorities and with information technology experts. They will consider the options, costs and security issues involved in online voting.

“Voter turnout in local body elections is traditionally low and we need to look at other ways to encourage people to become involved in the democratic process.

“Online voting will be more convenient and appeal to young voters. It will also make it easier for people with disabilities to vote. “

“There is a high level of interest from the sector in online voting with organisations like the Porirua City Council and the Manawatu District Council volunteering to take part in the trial.

“Robust regulations need to be in place so voters have trust and confidence in the system. The working party will be assessing the security and technology used in public elections overseas to mitigate risk.

“Once the working party reports its findings the next step will be to formulate a plan to implement online voting in local body elections.

This is great news. Postal voting is a dying mechanism. More and more people have no relationship with a post office. I only post around a letter every three months.

I’ve been involved in pushing for a trial of online voting for local body elections since 2011 and have had numerous meetings about this. The local body sector is keen and enthusiastic. The central government bureaucrats though have, to be blunt, done almost everything possible to never have even a trial.  They seem to be resistant to anything that involves change!

So its great to have the Minister cut through the bureaucratic resistance and announce a definite time-frame of a trial for the 2016 elections. It may even be possible to trial it before then if there are some local body by-elections. Most of the background work needed has already been done through various local government working groups.

I don’t (at this stage) advocate for parliamentary elections. Enough people are turning up to vote at the ballot box. But for local body elections, an option of online voting is essential to complement postal voting.

Online voting will hopefully both arrest the decline in turnout, but also help people make better informed votes. If voting online, it is much easier to go to candidate’s websites etc as you vote rather than just rely on the 200 word blurbs.

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19 Responses to “Online voting for 2016”

  1. Evadne (68 comments) says:

    I’m not sure central government is averse to change in itself, so much wary of the implications. E-voting may be a good substitute/complement to postal voting, but I would also be resistant to it in general elections.

    The current format of ballot-box voting ensures complete voting privacy: every vote is cast in a private booth. There can be no intimidation, bribery, or block voting.

    Maintaining such security is impossible by e-vote.

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  2. Bob R (1,340 comments) says:

    ***This is great news. Postal voting is a dying mechanism.***

    Great news for the Left. Anything that requires greater patience and forward planning is likely to reduce the number of Labour voters bothering to vote.

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  3. Judith (7,646 comments) says:

    Great News

    I can think of a few elderly relations that would happy let me place a vote for them on line – now who shall I encourage them to vote for ? – so much easier to persuade people when you can stand over their shoulder – so much harder when you can’t follow them into the polling booth ! ;-)

    [DPF: No polling booths for local body. Far harder to vote for someone online than it is to fill in their postal ballot for them and post it in for them]

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  4. BeaB (2,060 comments) says:

    Why not for general elections? Our turn-out is abysmal and it is such a nuisance and an anachronism having to find your way round a local school, stand in line, be ticked off on a sheet by a self-important functionary, shuffle all those bits of paper etc.

    I have spoken to several young people who couldn’t be bothered or forgot and even I, a regular voter, have to make myself stir my stumps.

    If we can manage our banking on-line even we oldies can cope with voting. There can always be a few booths for die-hards or kiosks in the shopping malls.

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  5. kowtow (7,645 comments) says:

    Our society and indeed democracy has become so degraded that we can’t even see ourselves making the minimal effort of getting off our fat arses to literally cast a vote.

    There’s something special about queuing up at your local polling station with your fellow citizens and actually doing the act of electing your government.

    I don’t think this will increase participation at all.

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  6. Nigel Kearney (864 comments) says:

    I don’t post letters often but am fairly sure it can be done without going into a post office. Increasing turnout is unlikely to be beneficial if the extra voters are entirely comprised of people too apathetic to fill out a form and put it in a mailbox.

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  7. MT_Tinman (2,993 comments) says:

    I can’t figure the problem they”re trying to fix.

    If people can’t be bothered posting a letter they certainly can’t be bothered figuring out who to vote for. Mr Aabarbath will win by a landslide.

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  8. Bob R (1,340 comments) says:

    @ Nigel Kearney & MT_Tinman,

    Exactly, which why this is great news for the Left. Those who lack the motivation to get off the couch and vote are also more likely to be dependent on the state and favour left wing policies.

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  9. siobhanbelling (5 comments) says:

    I think online voting would definitely increase participation. Of course there are some negatives as there is to everything but in general the entire world is reverting to online options, and New Zealand doesn’t want to be left behind do we?

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  10. backster (2,081 comments) says:

    Bob R…………And I agree with you.

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  11. nostrils (53 comments) says:

    “[DPF: No polling booths for local body. Far harder to vote for someone online than it is to fill in their postal ballot for them and post it in for them]“……….or not post it for them….

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  12. Black with a Vengeance (1,552 comments) says:

    About bloody time!!!

    Compulsory uptake of RealMe would be the easiest way and our own secure server banks situated in Nz would be great too.

    Get Kim Sitcom to set it up :)

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  13. calendar girl (1,175 comments) says:

    Optional online Census returns seem to have occurred efficiently enough, and without any great fuss. Probably a great dealt less expensively too.

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  14. siobhanbelling (5 comments) says:

    @calendar girl

    Agreed! Cost cutting would be a huge plus. If banks can do secure online transactions then surely securely online voting shouldn’t be a problem. The benefits far outweigh any possible risks.

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  15. Parlyguy (22 comments) says:

    I had to snicker at the assumption that Online Voting would appeal to younger voters. Why? There is an assumption in such statements that they actually really care about local government democracy, but

    “Oh, paper…no it’s all just too hard, so I won’t bother…now if it was online, well hell, I’d be all over that…”

    As with other commentators, they can’t be arsed taking time to vote via a postal ballot, they ain’t gonna change because its online. Although, there is an argument that if you make it so simple they only have to click on a couple of buttons, then it might increase participation…but is that really informed voting or just a more efficient form of apathy?

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  16. RJL (145 comments) says:

    @siobhanbelling

    a) Online banking is not actually very secure at all. But, the consequences of online banking fraud are usually easily identified and reversed. Of course, the bank also has insurance for just such problems, so the bank tolerates small amounts of fraud (that it can usually identify and fix) in return for increased customer convenience. Is fraud in an election something that you can just reverse and carry insurance for?

    b) The point of “secure” online banking is to create a permanent record of who you are and what you instructed with regard to your bank account. This is very different to the conduct of a secret ballot. In a secret ballot the point is to establish your eligibility to vote and to record what your vote was, but to very clearly *not* tie your vote to your identity. It’s very difficult to ensure that your vote and identity cannot be correlated in an online voting system. Which means that it is fundamentally inferior to the existing paper systems for voting in a democratic state.

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  17. ChloeHall (5 comments) says:

    @RJL I agree with you. However, electoral fraud should not only be restricted to online voting, as it could happen just as easily through postal voting. For example If people move house and then don’t update themselves on the electoral roll then their postal papers go to the old address. The new owners can then easily vote on their behalf. Whether fraud was conducted through postal voting or online voting, either way would be just as frustrating to reverse.

    I’m sure an online voting system would take into consideration that the personal vote must be kept separate from the voters individual identity. Otherwise as you said it would corrupt the current democratic state.

    I also agree that online voting would increase participation. @Kowtow Participation isn’t necessarily related to laziness.. In this day and age many people don’t have the time to que up at their local polling station to physically vote. Online voting would be extremely convenient for busy people and regardless of whether we like it or not, online seems to be the future movement.

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  18. RJL (145 comments) says:

    @ChloeHall

    Sure, with postal voting it is possible to commit voting fraud on a small scale. But the scope for it is quite limited. And, like your example, usually relies on legitimate voters not voting (so that their votes can be fraudulently used)

    The difference is that online voting makes massive systematic fraud possible and very hard to detect. An online voting system that was programmed to substitute at random intervals a proportion of Candidate A votes for Candidate B votes would be easy to create and very hard to detect and undo. I know that the software would be audited, but lots of other software systems our government has implemented have been audited too (Novapay, WINZ kiosks, etc), but that doesn’t stop them being (presumably by accident) a shambles. It would be much, much worse if somebody deliberately tried to make such systems vulnerable to certain sorts of attack.

    And, you are right that the manufactuer of an online voting system would “claim” to separate vote from identity. However, it is very hard to do, and almost impossible to verify that it has actually happened. Once the records are electronic by default, it is very simple to make copies.

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  19. ChloeHall (5 comments) says:

    @RJL

    You have a very valid point in regards to other government software systems such as Novapay and WINZ kiosks having issues and therefore becoming a shambles. I guess government would have to take the time to prove the security of a potential online voting system to New Zealander’s before implementing it, to ensure New Zealander’s trust the system and feel that they can use it securely.

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