16 Sep 2015

Online voting concerns brushed aside by Wellington council

1:42 pm on 16 September 2015

Security fears over online voting have been brushed aside by the Wellington City Council, which has voted to take part in next year's local body trial.

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Photo: New Zealand Electoral Commission

Last week, the Christchurch City Council overwhelmingly rejected taking part in the Government's trial due to fears about hacking.

But this morning, Wellington councillors voted 7 to 6 in favour of the idea, and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said for every IT expert who had concerns about hacking, there was another who did not.

In a public submission, Porirua mayor Nick Leggett pleaded with councillors to take part in the trial to boost voter turnout.

"This opportunity that Wellington city council has today is about widening the possibility for Wellington residents to engage, because a whole generation of us are now wedded to our phones."

Online voting has been proposed in many districts around the country, in an attempt to address a significant drop in voters in local elections. Councils in Palmerston North, Porirua, Whanganui, Rotorua and Matamata Piako are already moving ahead with plans to use the system.

But last week, at a full meeting of the Christchurch City Council, IT experts pleaded with councillors to reject it based on security fears.

One of them, Jonathan Hunt, reeled off a list of overseas examples where online voting has failed.

"Australia, i-vote, a significant security issue, France, fake votes demonstrated, Netherlands, they've banned internet voting outright, Spain discontinued, UK discontinued, Washington DC, that was a genuine trial without a politically binding outcome, it was hacked within 48 hours."

Councillors voted against online voting by 12 votes to one.