Push for online voting in local elections

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 17/12/2013

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Electronic voting should be the norm for all local authority elections in 2016, the Palmerston North City Council will tell a parliamentary committee reviewing low voter turnout.

With less than half the population voting, city councillors are making a range of suggestions to the Justice and Electoral select committee on how to encourage greater participation.

Online voting was top of the list of suggestions considered by the council at its monthly meeting last night.

The Government has announced online voting will be trialled in Manawatu and Porirua in the next local government elections.

But councillors said it should be rolled out to the whole country - something that electionz.com said ''could be done tomorrow''.

But Massey University local government commentator Christine Cheyne said while she supported e-voting for all from 2016, it would not lift voter engagement on its own.

''This must not be seen as any kind of panacea for a more deep-seated malaise around local electoral participation.''

The problem was more complex, and required councils to be more innovative about how they engaged with their citizens between elections, she said.

Council electoral officer John Annabell said a council survey of 350 people had attempted to discover why people neglected to vote.

Only 85 of the people who responded said that they did not vote. They said they did not know any of the candidates, that they were not interested, or that they were too busy.

As well as e-voting, the council would like to see a more condensed, one-week period only for voting, a reduction from the current three weeks.

They want all authorities to switch to STV to avoid confusion when more than one form of voting is used on the same ballot paper.

Cr Annette Nixon's call for more opportunities to be provided for people to meet candidates was also endorsed.

The city council arranged three meetings before October's elections, but the MidCentral District Health Board and many other councils held none.

Cr Nixon said councils and other organisations should be required to provide pre-election meetings.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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