Local body elections: Prime minister wants online voting in 2022

03102019 news photo supplied by Far North District Council. Generic postal voting picture for local body elections.
Far North District Council
03102019 news photo supplied by Far North District Council. Generic postal voting picture for local body elections.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants some voting to be online for the 2022 local body election as turnout around the country fades.

In the country's biggest local election, voting returns for Auckland Council have reached just 17 per cent, lagging behind 2016s turnout at this same stage, and in Wellington voting is also slower.

Local body elections are conducted using postal voting, with the postal system gradually declining and deliveries no longer daily in urban areas.

After Tuesday, voters will have to return completed ballot papers by hand before midday Saturday.
Chris McKeen/Stuff
After Tuesday, voters will have to return completed ballot papers by hand before midday Saturday.

"We need to see at least the beginning of online voting in my view, and I have held that view for some time," Ardern told Stuff in an interview.

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The previous government scrapped moves to trial online voting for the 2016 local body election, and nine local bodies scrapped a possible trial this year on cost grounds, and with law changes still uncertain.

New Zealand Post in September reported letter volumes were now only a third of those a decade earlier.

"There is a correlation between the way people are treating anything via post - and with that being the way we vote, and that needs to change," said Ardern.

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"There's been talk whether you trial online voting in particular areas first and that is a conversation we need again to have with Local Government New Zealand," she said.

"There are concerns to ensure it is done in such a way that is accessible and secure - there are very few countries which have moved to online voting, an example is Estonia, but they have only one-fifth of our population."

A group of nine local bodies had been working towards a trial this year, but baulked at the cost which had risen to a likely $4.2 million.

Auckland Council, the country's biggest with about one million voters, had been behind the online voting move.

"There is strong support for online voting with 74 per cent of Aucklanders telling us after the 2016 election that they would prefer to vote online," Mayor Phil Goff told Stuff in 2018.

Ardern said people needed to be assured that online voting was both accessible, but also secure, and acknowledged postal voting had weaknesses.

"I don't think it is necessarily efficient, given that people simply don't check their mail," she said.

In this year's elections, today is last day voters can post back their completed papers and be sure they will arrive by the midday Saturday deadline.

After today, voters will have to return their papers to council offices and designated collection points.

Stuff