Council keen for online voting

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014

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The Christchurch City Council is pushing for online voting to be introduced in time for the next local body elections.

It has made a submission to Parliament's justice and electoral select committee in which it lobbies for online voting and more "citizenship education" as ways of boosting voter turnout.

In last October's local body elections, only 43 per cent of Christchurch's eligible voters took part.

Across New Zealand the turnout was only marginally higher, at 47 per cent.

In its submission, the council says while online voting may not be the total answer to the low voter turnout, it is strongly of the view that it must be in place for the 2016 local body elections. It is keen to trial online voting either through a mock election or in a by-election, should one occur between now and the next scheduled local body elections in October 2016.

"Online voting will make it easier for people overseas during the voting period and also should reduce the number of informal votes and blank votes," the council's submission says.

It also backs Local Government New Zealand's push for a taskforce to be set up to review the state of citizenship education and identify options for its further development in schools and the community.

The council's submission also suggests the process for making special votes needs to be easier and that the midday closing time for votes on the final day of the three-week voting period needs to be extended to give people more opportunity to cast their ballot.

Cr Yani Johanson, who chaired the working party that prepared the submission, said the council was doing some work of its own on how to increase voter turnout, but it was important that changes were made at a national level.

The Electoral Commission needed to give greater prominence to local body elections and work to raise people's awareness of the importance of local government.

"Fundamentally there needs to be a greater understanding of what local government does in New Zealand," Johanson said.

"We also believe there are definitely opportunities to increase voter turnout through the use of technology. It [online voting] is not a magic bullet to solve the problem but if it makes it easier [to vote], we should look at it."

Local Government New Zealand is also pushing for online voting to be introduced, along with an alternative, such as ballot boxes, for those unable or unwilling to access the technology.

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- The Press

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