Online voting trials called off

Postal voting will remain the norm for the 2016 local body elections.
FAIRFAX NZ

Postal voting will remain the norm for the 2016 local body elections.

Online voting trials planned for October's council elections have been called off, and at least one local government commentator is delighted.

Massey University Auckland-based local body watcher Andy Asquith said the trials would have done nothing to achieve the goal of improving voter turnout.

"I'm delighted it's been canned.

"I think it was a disaster waiting to happen."

READ MORE:
Time is running out for go-ahead for online voting trials

* Palmerston North prepares its case to trial online voting 

The trials were planned to be held in Palmerston North, Whanganui and six other centres.

For Palmerston North, it meant ratepayers would be spared the $100,000 cost of testing the system.

Associate minister of local government Louise Upston cited a lack of public confidence in the security and integrity of online voting for the decision.

She said time had run out to complete and analyse security testing.

Upston said councils might be disappointed, but it was vital that the public had confidence in voting systems.

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Asquith said online voting would not address the fundamental issues about why people did not vote. 

"It is because they don't know who their councillors are or what a council does."

Asquith said he shared security concerns about online voting, but acknowledged postal voting also had risks.

"We need to go back a step and make people get off their backsides and go and vote."

There needed to be a concerted effort by central Government and local bodies together to demonstrate how important councils were.

Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith said he had been concerned from the outset about the Government's commitment to the trial, because it would not pay for them.

Smith said Palmerston North's digital leaders forum was an example of the city's enthusiasm, and he was sure the council would consider online voting from 2019.

But the 2016 trial needed more time to engage and educate voters about how it worked.

Palmerston North's youngest city councillor Aleisha Rutherford said she did not buy the explanations for canning the trial.

The 2013 census had been conducted using an online option.

"That included some pretty important and sensitive information, and if there were issues and concerns about security, that would not have happened."

Rutherford said she believed testing and setting up online voting was just not a priority for the Government.

Massey University commentator Christine Cheyne agreed that if a census could be conducted online, so could a council election, especially as it would have been backed up with a postal option for those who preferred it.

"Central Government's tardiness in facilitating a trial of e-voting in 2016 is extremely disappointing."

It was time to modernise voting systems to reflect the high level of use of the internet by New Zealanders, Cheyne said.

Horizons Regional Council chairman Bruce Gordon said the Government had left it too late to get the trials properly organised.

"There was no evidence it was going to increase voter turnout."

Horizons councillors refused to contribute to the costs of the Whanganui and Palmerston North trials.

 

 - Stuff

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