A pity online voting trial axed but unlikely to be silver bullet

EDITORIAL

The decision of Associate Minister of Local Government Louise Upston not to go ahead with an online voting trial for this year’s local government elections will be disappointing for many.

Eight local authorities had expressed interest in taking part in an online trial for this year’s elections in October.

But Ms Upston has said more work is needed before a trial can take place, citing timing restrictions and real concerns about security and vote integrity.

One of the interested councils was Wellington and deputy mayor Justin Lester has described this as a lost opportunity. While he appreciates the system needs to be “hack proof”, he says it is vital that the Government continues efforts to make online voting available at both local and national level as soon as possible.

He points out that most young people today never post mail, they communicate online.

After the 2014 local body elections then minister Chris Tremain gave an assurance that the Government would fast-track online voting, but that has clearly fallen by the wayside.

It is obvious that some way has to be found to increase participation in local government elections, which has been declining steadily for the past seven or eight elections.

Gisborne District Council is a typical example. Only 48 percent of the 31,388 registered voters took part in the 2013 election, a sharp fall on the 55 percent who voted in 2010. The national figure in 2013 was 42 percent.

Postal ballots have been used for local body elections in New Zealand since 1986 but have not arrested the decline. Unfortunately it is unlikely that online voting will be a silver bullet either. People still have to care enough to want to vote.

At least Gisborne voters will notice something different on their voting papers this year.

While the council has again opted for the first past the post voting system, it has decided to use a pseudo-random candidate listing instead of alphabetical order — which was seen as helping people with names at the top of the list, such as Bauld.

The decision of Associate Minister of Local Government Louise Upston not to go ahead with an online voting trial for this year’s local government elections will be disappointing for many.

Eight local authorities had expressed interest in taking part in an online trial for this year’s elections in October.

But Ms Upston has said more work is needed before a trial can take place, citing timing restrictions and real concerns about security and vote integrity.

One of the interested councils was Wellington and deputy mayor Justin Lester has described this as a lost opportunity. While he appreciates the system needs to be “hack proof”, he says it is vital that the Government continues efforts to make online voting available at both local and national level as soon as possible.

He points out that most young people today never post mail, they communicate online.

After the 2014 local body elections then minister Chris Tremain gave an assurance that the Government would fast-track online voting, but that has clearly fallen by the wayside.

It is obvious that some way has to be found to increase participation in local government elections, which has been declining steadily for the past seven or eight elections.

Gisborne District Council is a typical example. Only 48 percent of the 31,388 registered voters took part in the 2013 election, a sharp fall on the 55 percent who voted in 2010. The national figure in 2013 was 42 percent.

Postal ballots have been used for local body elections in New Zealand since 1986 but have not arrested the decline. Unfortunately it is unlikely that online voting will be a silver bullet either. People still have to care enough to want to vote.

At least Gisborne voters will notice something different on their voting papers this year.

While the council has again opted for the first past the post voting system, it has decided to use a pseudo-random candidate listing instead of alphabetical order — which was seen as helping people with names at the top of the list, such as Bauld.

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