Online voting report released

August 5th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said:

A report looking at the feasibility of for local body elections has been welcomed by Associate Local Government Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga.

In September 2013, Cabinet agreed to establish a working party to consider the feasibility of online voting in New Zealand’s local elections. The working party met from December 2013 to May 2014 and has now reported back with its recommendations.

Mr Lotu-Iiga says the working party found online voting for local elections is feasible. The report said that online voting has the potential to enhance the operation of local democracy and offer New Zealanders a more accessible and convenient option to cast their vote.

“One of the major benefits of online voting is as a tool of convenience. It would enable voters to act on their intention to vote quicker, easier and in a forum more in line with the modern digital age,” he says.

“We have seen good examples of that recently with the census, where 35 per cent of forms were completed online in 2013, which is up from 7 per cent in 2006.”

I was on the working group that write the report. It was a lot of work, but I’m really pleased with the report.  Very impressed with the DIA staff who supported the working group.

The report makes seven findings. They are:

  1. online voting is feasible
  2. broad implementation is not feasible in 2016
  3. online voting should be trialled in 2016 as part of local elections
  4. online voting can improve and enhance the voting experience
  5. public trust and confidence must be maintained
  6. implementing online voting will require a partnership approach
  7. securing online voting is critical, but not easy

Some of the specific recommendations include:

  • online voting should be considered complementary to postal or booth voting and not as a replacement to existing voting methods
  • Councils and their communities should choose whether online voting is available as a voting method
  • In order to ensure that online voting systems are secure enough, the Department should harness the expertise of the wider security community through a ‘bug bounty’ or similar process to attract constructive analysis of proposed systems for vulnerabilities.
  • The Department should ensure that any online voting solutions are highly auditable.
  • For the 2016 trials, online voting should use the existing postal ballot issue to communicate login details to users, only allow one-time access to the online voting system and use two factor authentication if possible – our preferred option is for the voter to use their date of birth (acquired from the electoral roll) as a ‘shared secret’

The Institute of IT Professionals has welcomed the report:

IITP CEO Paul Matthews, who sat on the working group, welcomed the release of the report today. “This report plots the path forward for online voting in New Zealand, and carefully weighs up the issues around security and other factors”, Matthews said.

During the development of the report, the Institute was heavily engaged and very pleased with the focus of the Working Group and Government on protecting the integrity of voter’s private information amidst the security implications of online voting.

“We especially support the recommendation of a ‘bug bounty’ approach to the online voting system. While bug bounties are used extensively in our sector by most prominent technology companies, this would be a step forward for a Government and is one of the key recommendations from the IT profession to Government last year, following various public sector security breaches.”

“We thank the Minister for looking to IITP and other organisations such as Internet New Zealand to provide independent expertise for this Working Group. As the representative body for the IT Profession, this enabled IITP to work with others to ensure tech-related factors were well considered, independently and without technology bias,” Matthews concluded.

Basically what is needed now is for central and local government to work together to determine how to find the initial costs of developing a robust online voting system. This will have potential for not just local government elections, but also referenda. Note I don’t advocate using online voting for parliamentary elections – just as a complementary option to those systems that rely on postal ballots – as the postal system is basically dying.

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40 Responses to “Online voting report released”

  1. kowtow (8,524 comments) says:

    “online voting can improve and enhance the voting experience”

    Rubbish.

    There’snothing like getting your arse up to the election station, queuing up with the rest of your fellow citizens,collecting your papers,and then going to the booth (even the booth itself , a symbol of the struggle for a secure and private ballot)and then making your mark!

    That’s an experience,not a click on a computer to satisfy the lazy and useless who can’t be bothered.

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  2. MT_Tinman (3,205 comments) says:

    Online voting will make it easier to vote early, vote often.

    I’m opposed to the idea.

    Voters should have to earn the privilege by getting off their asses and making their way to a polling booth.

    Anyone too bone idle lazy to do that is also too bone idle lazy to make an informed choice.

    Democracy is better off without them!

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  3. backster (2,174 comments) says:

    Reforms such as this should be left tothose who will benefit the most the Left and the Inept.

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  4. straya (80 comments) says:

    I see that the first two posters take issue with the statement that “online voting can improve and enhance the voting experience”.

    DPF given that you support evidence based policy, wouldn’t it be better to leave judgments about that issue until after the trial, and seek to measure or assess how it affects the voting experience from feedback once people have actually tried that voting method?

    I’m not saying don’t try online voting, but let’s not decide the outcomes in advance!

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  5. Unity (588 comments) says:

    I’m with Kowtow and Tinman on this. If they are too lazy to get off their butts and go to a polling booth, then they are probably too lazy to have given proper consideration as to where they would place their vote anyway. It is much more meaningful and satisfying to actually leave the house, go to the polling booth, check in and collect your papers then place your vote. You actually feel as though you have contributed to our democracy, whatever the final outcome. If you haven’t voted then you don’t have the right to complain about who gets in.

    I say a great big no to online voting.

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  6. srylands (410 comments) says:

    I don’t get what problem we are trying to solve.

    Is it reducing costs? Fair enough to have that debate, but if you want to reduce Government expenditure, I wouldn’t start at the cost of running elections every three years.

    If the key problem definition is increasing voting turnout by “enhancing the voting experience”, I am totally opposed, for the reasons others have advanced repeatedly. I just don’t get it. It is open to abuse and would only increase voting by the ill informed and feckless.

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  7. Cactus Kate (551 comments) says:

    Online voting? Electronic voting?
    Clearly DPF you aren’t watching Damages closely enough. Think of what Kim DotCom could do to a voting system that was online.
    Nothing wrong with a pen and going to a booth. Finding the booth is the true test of how badly you want to vote and therefore should be allowed to.

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  8. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    I believe there should always be some small amount of difficulty associated with voting. Showing up and presenting some photo/biometric ID are the minima I would like to see.

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  9. Goldsmith (27 comments) says:

    And when the lazy dont bother to lift their finger and vote online, what then do we do next? Sounds like a whole lot of money being wasted on lazy people who cant be bothered to vote in the first place.

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  10. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Why should voting be difficult? Surely we want voting to be as accessible as possible.
    Maybe some here would like voting to be made harder. Maybe one booth per electorate open between 3 and 4 pm (on a weekday)?

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  11. MH (762 comments) says:

    and of course THIS is the real reason General Commodore Air Vice Marshall Bainimarama is coming to NZ, or is it because he has a little bit of Bain in him, maybe an ulterrorist motive?

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  12. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I wish I knew what that comment meant.

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  13. Pete George (23,602 comments) says:

    To better target non-voters maybe they should consider voting booths at fast food outlets, at the counters and in the drive through. Something to do while you wait.

    Would you like fries and a vote with that?
    Can I up-size my vote?

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  14. srylands (410 comments) says:

    “Surely we want voting to be as accessible as possible.”

    No surely we don’t. There is an optimum degree of accessibility traded off against costs, practicability, and scope for abuse. I have seen no evidence that the current system is too far from that optimum.

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  15. Nigel Kearney (1,019 comments) says:

    our preferred option is for the voter to use their date of birth (acquired from the electoral roll) as a ‘shared secret’

    Please tell me nobody will be able to vote for every person whose name and birth date they know or can access. Because that would be insane.

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  16. David Farrar (1,899 comments) says:

    So many stupid comments in one thread. For those who say everyone should go to a polling booth, well we have not used polling booths for around 27 years in local body elections. Local body elections are postal ballots so this is about whether one can return your vote via the Internet as well as via the post office.

    Nigel: The report says two factor authentication. They will also need the unique password on your individualized ballot paper that was sent to you.

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  17. Pete George (23,602 comments) says:

    ” Local body elections are postal ballots…” …with much lower turnouts than for general elections.

    It’s not so much the vote delivery system that’s the problem, it’s the product. Increasing numbers of people are pissed off and turned off by politics and politicians. Address that and you might start to address voter turnout.

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  18. prosper (168 comments) says:

    Internet voting will probably ensure that we continually have left wing councils. The people that can’t be bothered voting now will not be voting for the centre on line.

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  19. gravedodger (1,566 comments) says:

    Why bovver wif votin Let the nice gummint do it for us, dey does evryfing else.

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  20. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    Cactus Kate suggests:

    Finding the booth is the true test of how badly you want to vote and therefore should be allowed to.

    I’d much rather a neutral, 10 question test on basic civics which would grant you a vote (whether at a booth or online). If you fail at questions like “Which vote is more important in choosing who governs, party or electorate?”, which about 48 percent still answer wrongly (citing either electorate vote or, more commonly ‘both equally’) then it’s bzzzzzzt, thanks for playing, try again in three years.

    Just because someone has the spare time between going to buy scratchies and heading to the pub to cast a ballot doesn’t mean they’re intellectually equipped to do so.

    I thought VRWC members were against rewarding everyone simply because they made the effort to take part? :-P

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  21. MH (762 comments) says:

    The racist Fijian Bainimarama is being allowed to visit NZ as part of his election promise, to actually have an election so obviously he is here to learn about on line voting.

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  22. adze (2,126 comments) says:

    Securing online voting is not easy, but it is possible. Using something like a hashed blockchain would be one way of ensuring the integrity of the process.

    For those talking bollocks about declaring an arbitrarily necessary level of difficulty to vote, I presume none of you use Internet banking, renew your passport online, watch online movies rather than rent DVDs, or use emails instead of writing letters.

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  23. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    It might be more about stereotyping the sort of people they don’t want to vote.

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  24. Nukuleka (335 comments) says:

    Any voting system that encourages the lazy, profligate, uninformed and radical left wing is to be discouraged, I say. No to online voting.

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  25. jawnbc (87 comments) says:

    This is effing os-some!

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  26. mandk (998 comments) says:

    @ adze,
    but none of the things you mention risks introducing a Cunliffe/Norman/Turei/Peters/Harawira/Harre-led government

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  27. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Yes, voting is much too important to be done online like any other convenient service. We must make it as difficult as possible in an attempt to keep out the rabble. How about adding an English test and a property qualification while we are at it?

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  28. mandk (998 comments) says:

    DPF: “So many stupid comments in one thread”

    Your summary specifically mentions online voting as complementary to booth voting. It follows that online voting for general elections must be on the agenda, even if it is some way into the future.

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  29. OneTrack (3,121 comments) says:

    How about adding a nett taxpayer test? Excellent idea mike, glad you suggested it.

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  30. Viking2 (11,491 comments) says:

    Christ, where were all these dinosaurs hiding. FFS the 21 st century and ya want/need to stroll up the polling both to satisfy your ego’s.
    How quaint.

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  31. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    It’s just like the Republicans in the States wanting voter ID to combat ‘fraud’.

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  32. Liam Hehir (125 comments) says:

    Voting is a community based, civic event. Sitting in front of a glowing screen in your pyjamas somehow seems lacking on that score.

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  33. kowtow (8,524 comments) says:

    “So many stupid comments in one thread”

    David, your blog ,your call.

    Always good to listen to feedback though without resorting to being rude to your punters.

    Postal voting? Seems to be a big problem in Dunedin ,where it’s suggested students send in lots of other peoples ballot papers.

    Favours a certain far left party that masquerades as caring for the environment.

    I still say get your arse to the polling station.

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  34. jgw739 (26 comments) says:

    I’m not against the concept of online voting in itself. I personally do enjoy going down to the polling booths every three years and having my small say but I can definitely see how many more people would actually cast a vote if they could do it online. My generation (early 30s) have grown as adults living in the internet age and are used to being able to do virtually everything online. The world has moved on. Businesses without a decent website suffer for the same reason as polling booths are suffering – lack of interest from the younger generations.

    Two problems I can see with online parliamentary voting (beyond what has already been mentioned) are (a) The increased cost due to there still being a need to have actual booths with attendant staff and (b) the possibility of political parties plastering the voting website with banner ads / popups / etc. thus influencing voters at the point just prior to casting their vote. ie. Prospective Parent – ‘Hmmm, I might vote National this time around due to the great job they are doing’ – BAM! Popup ad for the Herald headlined ‘National eyes one child policy’. Even if it were later proven to be false, once the voter has cast they can’t change it….

    As far as local elections go – why not go online? Does anybody really vote a mayor in based on anything more than the name and the picture on the billboards? For a lot of people its a case of ‘oh yeah, I’ve heard of him before…. tick’

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  35. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    Watch the Internet-Mana party claim credit for making internet voting a reality. Seriously it’s pathetic we can’t already do it, what are politicians afraid of ?

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  36. RRM (9,933 comments) says:

    The “Institute of IT Professionals”?

    I’m picturing a very grand old crest and coat of arms, and underneath the motto Avertas iterum cie

    (Switch off switch on again)

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  37. adze (2,126 comments) says:

    @mandk
    Those risks are present anyway. None of the comments against online voting here so far are compelling at all – in particular, being against online voting in the hopes of dissuading your political opponents is a pretty dodgy motivation.

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  38. Rick Rowling (813 comments) says:

    Union employee “volunteering” to help get out the vote: “Hi, I’m helping people vote today. Have you voted?”

    Disengaged punter: “Uh, no.”

    Voluteer: “No worries, we can do it now” *whips out Party funded iPad*

    Volunteer: “We’ll enter your name here. Okay. And your Date of Birth here. Okay. Now we can vote by tapping a party name here – maybe _this one_? Thanks! You’ve really helped. Shall we help the others here vote, too?”

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  39. Rick Rowling (813 comments) says:

    Viking ” ya want/need to stroll up the polling both to satisfy your ego’s.”

    Maybe they want a polling booth so there’s at least some form of independent supervision of the actual voting process.

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  40. deadrightkev (472 comments) says:

    I don’t get what people have against online voting. Its called democracy and we complain about low voter turnouts at every election.

    Saying that those who cannot be bothered walking to the ballot box don’t have an equal vote as those that sit in front of a computer to vote makes me cringe. Of course it could be that those who are against online voting have an agenda, that is closer to the mark.

    I would love to vote online. Its easier, cheaper and faster. Voters should at least be given the option.

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