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 e-voting 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.