6 Oct 2014

Push for online voting next election

6:26 am on 6 October 2014

The Electoral Commission is looking towards planning for the 2017 election and wants lawmakers to look at the option of online voting.

voting ballot box


Turnout at this year's election was up about 3.5 percent compared to 2011, but still an estimated one million people chose not to vote.

Electoral Commission chief executive Robert Peden said the commission wants to look at ways to encourage a higher voter turnout and allowing people to vote online could help.

"The sensible way to do that would be to gradually introduce the option. So you would start with making it an option, for example, for overseas voters," he said.

"You start gradually, build confidence in it, and introduce it over time."

In a recent study of 288 Massey University students nearly three quarters of non-voters said they would be more likely to cast a vote if they could do it online.

voting at ballot stands


No silver bullet

Associate professor of the university's politics programme, Richard Shaw, said online democracy would not be a silver bullet for addressing low voter turnout.

"If you made the act of voting easier by reducing the amount of time that it takes somebody to get out and go to and express their preference at a physical ballot booth, then you would actually solve the problem of falling turnout," he said.

"But falling turnout has got an awful lot more to do with the existence of socio-economic inequality. So we know that an awful lot of people who do not vote are young, but they are also poor."

Lawrence Yule.

Lawrence Yule. Photo: LGNZ

Local government struggles

The struggle to get people to the polls is not just one for central government. In the 2012 local body elections, only 43 percent of eligible voters took part.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said the Government was weighing up the logistics of an online voting system for local body elections and a pilot could be ready to be trialled at the next vote, in two years time.

"A number (of local councils), probably about ten in New Zealand, have expressed real interest in trialling online voting. We're now looking at the technology, the regulatory environment and the cost of doing so in the hope that people can use that as a viable option on a trial basis," he said.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs