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Online voting back in the news

Paul Brislen, Editor. 09 October 2019, 8:20 am

Online voting has again been raised as a possible solution to low voter turnout in local body elections.

While votes are yet to be counted, voter turnout is down in the postal voting process compared with the same time in the previous election.

Once again, calls are being heard for online voting to be introduced to "solve" this problem, and this time they've got the ear of the Prime Minister who told Stuff, "We need to see at least the beginning of online voting in my view, and I have held that view for some time."

Accessibility is one of the key reasons given by voters (or non-voters) for their lack of voting and online voting is supposed to make it easier for voters to take part, but as the recent Census showed, what voters say and what they do are often quite different things. 

And there are a number of other reasons for low turnout in regional body elections: lack of clarity around what councils do, the large number of candidates with very little information on their policies, views and positions, the inclusion of voting for district health board members which uses the Single Transferable Vote system and requires voters to rank candidates. None of these issues would be changed by the introduction of online voting.

This is not the first time online voting has been mooted. A number of local councils looked at online voting and an RFP was produced last year, however councils are calling on central government to support any such initiative and review the way local body elections are conducted.

Even ITP members are somewhat divided over whether online voting is a good idea or not. In 2015 a straw poll saw 84% of ITP members support the idea, although a strong and vocal group of IT and security professionals have expressed their concerns about the idea.

With the general election slated for some time next year the issue of how we vote will no doubt be centre stage for some time to come.


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