Online voting for council elections looking unlikely to go ahead
If you don't know where your nearest postbox is, Google it now, because online voting at this year's council elections appears unlikely to go ahead.
The Government is yet to make a call on whether to allow online voting at October's election. But it is understood the Department of Internal Affairs is not confident that councils can get systems in place to keep the hackers at bay.
It recently contacted Wellington City Council, one of eight councils keen to offer online voting alongside postal voting this year, to express its concerns.
But that suggestion has Wellington Deputy Mayor Justin Lester concerned, as he believes there is nothing stopping the capital from letting its residents vote from the comfort of their computers this year.
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"A lot of people don't even know where their local postbox is these days, and if you're a younger voter, you're even less likely to know."
The Wellington, Porirua and Palmerston North city councils all put their hands up to offer online voting this year, as did the Whanganui, Rotorua, Matamata-Piako, Selwyn and Masterton district councils.
The last Wellington City Council election in 2013 saw 55,716 votes cast, or 40.8 per cent of all eligible voters. Lester, who is standing for the Wellington mayoralty this year, believed an online option would increase that number.
"In the not-too-distant future there may not even be a postal service, so we should be getting on with this. But all they're doing is delay, delay, delay," he said.
"We're already at the stage where a postal ballot is a bit ridiculous."
A spokesman for Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston said no decisions had been made, and any correspondence between the Department of Internal Affairs and councils was merely to keep them informed of progress on the issue.
Cabinet was expected to make a call on online voting in April, and the minister did not want to discuss the nature of the advice being provide by the department until then, he said.
Wellington's online voting service was expected to cost ratepayers $100,000, and be supplied by company Electionz.com.
Under the system, each voter would get a personal number and a password to log in to the voting site. Once their vote had been cast, the number could not be used again.
Councillors were warned by IT experts in September that the worst-case scenario would be an "Ashley Madison-style" hack during the election.
The warning came months after the Ashley Madison website, which helps married people cheat on their spouses, was hacked and its 36 million members worldwide had their details leaked.
Lester said on Thursday that, while a system could never be created that was 100 per cent impenetrable to hackers, he had been assured the Electionz.com site had an adequate level of security.
He also felt the chances of anyone wanting to hack into the site and mess with the election results were pretty low.