Premature success

Well this is a new one for me – a campaign winds up before it even launches, because it has had premature success.

As readers will know I have been advocating a trial of for local body elections for some time. A few months ago the Government agreed to a trial in 2016 and possible implementation in 2019. This was a welcome decision, but myself and other advocates thought it wasn’t ambitious enough and we decided to launch a campaign next week to try and speed things up. The aim was to use any by-elections as a trial and then get as many Councils as possible in 2016 committing to using e-voting.

Myself and (ex Len Brown political advisor) were going to be co-spokepsersons (political balance to show not a partisan thing). We had three major city mayors on board, plus other prominent Mayors. We were all set to launch next Monday.

Then yesterday announced:

Local Government  Minister Chris Tremain says he will be instructing a working party to explore what would be needed for online voting to be fully introduced in the next local  body elections.

Voter turnout at the 2013 election was the lowest ever recorded with a projected figure of around 40 per cent.  Final results will be confirmed by Local Government New Zealand on Thursday.

“Figures as far back as 1962 (see below) show voter turnout at local body elections are traditionally low but I am concerned that it is on a slow decline,” says Mr Tremain. 

“A large number of people work from smart phones and online voting is definitely the way of the future.  However there are risks involved in transferring to an online system, so it is important we clearly understand those risks before making any final decision.  Accessibility for all voters is a critical consideration in any move forward.

“The government has invested in online verification technology, RealMe, which will enable secure authentication of a person’s identity for online voting.

“The working party, which was announced before the recent local body elections, is being tasked with establishing the technical, financial, and security issues involved in online voting.  In addition I will now ask them to explore the possibility of having full online voting available at the next local body elections.  A condition of this must be that an opportunity exists for a significant trial before 2016. 

This is basically the outcome we were after, so we’ve decided there is no point in launching a campaign when we’ve already had premature success and got what we want! I wish we could take credit for it, but the credit goes to Chris Tremain for deciding to prioritise the trial. And it is important we do have a trial – there are security issues to be worked through etc.

“I will also be inviting the Justice and Electoral Committee, who conduct reviews of local and national elections, to investigate other initiatives that will lift voter turnout. 

“Part of this will be considering the confusion created by the single transferable voting system especially when voters are presented with two voting systems on the same voting papers. Another issue that has been raised, post the elections, has been the three week voting timeframe, so it would be timely to consider this as well.

“Online voting will give people more choice but on its own will not solve low voter turnout.”

It will not get people to vote who are not interested in voting. But it will make it easier for people who do want to vote, to vote. The postal system is slowly dying and the future for local body elections will either be ballot box voting or e-voting, or both.

The annoying thing with the campaign being over before it starts, is we don’t get to do the usual celebratory drinks 🙂

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