Affordable Access

E-voting eventually? Online voting in (local) elections

  • Christine Cheyne
Policy Online
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In April 2016 New Zealand’s long-awaited online voting trial for local elections was again cancelled, or postponed indefinitely. Despite its advocacy of e-government, central government in New Zealand has continued to stall over trialling online voting. The trial of online voting was strongly supported by local government and has long been recommended by a Parliamentary select committee. However, three months before nominations opened for the October 2016 elections, the associate local government minister, Louise Upston, called off the online voting trial proposed for the elections, citing concerns about security and vote integrity. This article reviews the background to online voting in local elections in New Zealand, with reference to relevant overseas experience and considers the way forward to implementing online voting, with a view to e-voting being an optional method of voting in local elections.   Concludes that now online voting is postponed, there is sufficient time for a trial of online voting in a council by-election and for any refinements needed to be made in time for a full roll-out of online voting in the 2019 local elections. The abandoned 2016 pilot would have provided valuable insights to assist deliberation about online voting in general elections. Online voting in elections is likely to become a focus of public and media debate if the trend of declining turnout in general elections continues in 2017. While it is important to distinguish between engagement and access, access can be significantly enhanced with the use of digital technologies. 

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