Initial nod to online voting trial for 2019 GDC elections

'We are not replacing ballot papers'

'We are not replacing ballot papers'

File picture

GISBORNE District Council has agreed, in principle, to conduct trial online voting in the 2019 local body elections, although several councillors have expressed reservations in terms of costs and computer literacy among older voters.

The Future Tairawhiti committee (all councillors and Mayor Meng Foon) agreed to the trial, either alone or in partnership with other councils — subject to the following conditions:

• Legislation being passed in time to proceed.

• All risks including security being managed.

• Costs being acceptable.

• The council giving final approval for any trial to go ahead.

Josh Wharehinga moved the motion to endorse the trial and it was seconded by Rehette Stoltz.

Mr Wharehinga said the council was being asked only to support the trial, but still had the final say about it’s implementation.

Online voting had been successful with the runanga during two elections

Online voting had been successful with the runanga during two elections.

He had found it easy to vote.

Feedback had been positive although he did not know what the voter turnout had been.

Mr Wharehinga said he was concerned about voting difficulties that existed for voters who were overseas during the voting period.

Brian Wilson said the council had to be realistic after issues had arisen with the census.

Many people had not been able to vote electronically.

A robust system was needed where voters who were not online could go to a polling booth.

The worst thing that could happen was to exclude some people from voting.

Mrs Stoltz said people could still vote with a ballot paper in a polling booth.

A ballot paper was required to go online to cast a vote.

There had been many issues with the Census.

“But if we don’t trial things, we can’t iron out the issues that are there.”

'This is the way forward'

“This is the way forward. We are not replacing ballot papers.”

Mrs Stoltz said there was a budget for the trial and she supported the proposal.

Mr Foon said issues with the last Census, which could be completed electronically, resulted in a return of 94 percent, compared to 98 percent in the previous census.

‘‘That is not bad.”

Andy Cranston said he was “still a little reluctant”.

Costs of $50,000 could be a “gross under-estimation”.

A previously-proposed trial in 2015, which Gisborne District Council decided not to take part in because of unbudgeted costs, was estimated to cost $50,000.

Mr Cranston said the trial would be more acceptable if it was underwritten by the Local Government Commission.

Does the council have the staff to conduct the trial?

He questioned whether the council had the staffing to conduct the trial.

“It will be done, but why by us?’’

James Baty, director of internal partnerships, said the trial would be contracted out.

The council’s contractors were well versed in online voting.

Meredith Akuhata-Brown made reference to an earlier presentation about the possible local use of satellites.

Technology was changing fast in a world where computers were easily accessible in schools and youth spent much time online.

Like Mr Foon, Mrs Akuhata-Brown said there were agencies available to help older New Zealanders to become computer-literate.

Mr Foon said he saw many retirement home residents communicating with their grandchildren on Skype.

Don’t under-estimate the older generations, he said.

Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said $75,000 had been allocated in the long-term plan for the trial.

The full council must still give final approval for the trial , she said.

If the trial proceeds, regulations will be needed to set up the functional and security requirements for an online voting system. There would also be a promotional campaign.

GISBORNE District Council has agreed, in principle, to conduct trial online voting in the 2019 local body elections, although several councillors have expressed reservations in terms of costs and computer literacy among older voters.

The Future Tairawhiti committee (all councillors and Mayor Meng Foon) agreed to the trial, either alone or in partnership with other councils — subject to the following conditions:

• Legislation being passed in time to proceed.

• All risks including security being managed.

• Costs being acceptable.

• The council giving final approval for any trial to go ahead.

Josh Wharehinga moved the motion to endorse the trial and it was seconded by Rehette Stoltz.

Mr Wharehinga said the council was being asked only to support the trial, but still had the final say about it’s implementation.

Online voting had been successful with the runanga during two elections

Online voting had been successful with the runanga during two elections.

He had found it easy to vote.

Feedback had been positive although he did not know what the voter turnout had been.

Mr Wharehinga said he was concerned about voting difficulties that existed for voters who were overseas during the voting period.

Brian Wilson said the council had to be realistic after issues had arisen with the census.

Many people had not been able to vote electronically.

A robust system was needed where voters who were not online could go to a polling booth.

The worst thing that could happen was to exclude some people from voting.

Mrs Stoltz said people could still vote with a ballot paper in a polling booth.

A ballot paper was required to go online to cast a vote.

There had been many issues with the Census.

“But if we don’t trial things, we can’t iron out the issues that are there.”

'This is the way forward'

“This is the way forward. We are not replacing ballot papers.”

Mrs Stoltz said there was a budget for the trial and she supported the proposal.

Mr Foon said issues with the last Census, which could be completed electronically, resulted in a return of 94 percent, compared to 98 percent in the previous census.

‘‘That is not bad.”

Andy Cranston said he was “still a little reluctant”.

Costs of $50,000 could be a “gross under-estimation”.

A previously-proposed trial in 2015, which Gisborne District Council decided not to take part in because of unbudgeted costs, was estimated to cost $50,000.

Mr Cranston said the trial would be more acceptable if it was underwritten by the Local Government Commission.

Does the council have the staff to conduct the trial?

He questioned whether the council had the staffing to conduct the trial.

“It will be done, but why by us?’’

James Baty, director of internal partnerships, said the trial would be contracted out.

The council’s contractors were well versed in online voting.

Meredith Akuhata-Brown made reference to an earlier presentation about the possible local use of satellites.

Technology was changing fast in a world where computers were easily accessible in schools and youth spent much time online.

Like Mr Foon, Mrs Akuhata-Brown said there were agencies available to help older New Zealanders to become computer-literate.

Mr Foon said he saw many retirement home residents communicating with their grandchildren on Skype.

Don’t under-estimate the older generations, he said.

Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said $75,000 had been allocated in the long-term plan for the trial.

The full council must still give final approval for the trial , she said.

If the trial proceeds, regulations will be needed to set up the functional and security requirements for an online voting system. There would also be a promotional campaign.

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Mary-Ann de Kort - 2 months ago
It is interesting that your online poll might not be accessed by those who either don't or are unable to use the technology. Yes, institutionalised elderly have the support and group ISP accounts enabling them to use computers to Skype.
But what about all of those of all ages living independently who can't afford internet accounts?
I would like to think that 100% of voters can use technology but the reality is that many are unable to do so. Will we really expect the libraries to deal with the thousands they might need to assist to vote? Will voters bother to go to the libraries in the first instance?
The precedence is that the census was not well supported. That should be a red flag to the proponents of online voting as this has caused all sorts of problems.
Additionally, I think online voting will skew election results in the favour of those with the ability and the means. A whole cohort of poor people will not vote.
The other thing that concerns me is all the talk of hacking in the US election. Who is to say that those who have a self interest in winning will not employ hackers to skew the election in the interests of their own agendas rather than what is best for the ratepayers.
The bigger the prize which will be controlled, the higher the risk of this happening.
People also need time to consider their responses especially for the STV voting of a district health board. Those decisions are complicated so let's hope an online process would allow for that instead of timing out. If it did that many voters might give up after the first or second try.
The question then is; will councils be able to guarantee the integrity of the process?
I'm an an ardent computer user but I recognise that we might need to take a breather as there are many pitfalls which will need to be resolved prior to any electronic voting process.