Palmerston North prepares its case to trial online voting

Palmerston North plans to take another step away from the ballot box to trial online voting in October.

Palmerston North plans to take another step away from the ballot box to trial online voting in October.

Palmerston North is forging ahead with plans to trial online voting at October's local body elections.

The city council is working with the Whanganui District Council to finalise its bid to the Department of Internal Affairs explaining how it would implement the trial at the October 8 elections.

But the $100,000 city trial has yet to win the support of Horizons Regional Council, some of whose members are elected through the same voting pack as the Palmerston North City Council and Whanganui District Council.

Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said his council's participation in the Palmerston North trial had not been specifically debated in his recollection.

"We have had discussions about online voting generally, but the price put us off."

Gordon said it was generally accepted that online voting was the way of the future, that young people in particular expected to be able to do everything online, and that it could help reverse declining voter turnout figures.

Local government commentator, Massey University's Christine Cheyne, has encouraged the city council to be a leader in the shift to online voting, while also warning it was not the silver bullet to cure voter apathy.

City council chief financial officer Grant Elliott said the city was confident it could meet the criteria set by the Government to allow the trial.

With Whanganui, it was working with Auckland-based Independent Election Services on implementation.

"We'll be working together to make sure online voting is secure, transparent and meets Government guidelines," he said.

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Each voter would be given a unique elector identity number to ensure their personal details were kept private, while still allowing their voting document to be verified.

Postal voting would remain an option for those who did not want to go online.

Elliott said there was a growing expectation that online voting would become available soon.

"Our ability to offer online voting fits in with the council's broader commitment to going digital by creating modern, efficient and convenient services online."

Eight councils have been invited to take part in the trial.

Cabinet is expected to decide in March whether the trial will go ahead, and which councils will take part.

If Palmerston North's proposal is accepted, its participation would need to be ratified by the full city council in June.

 - Stuff


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