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Councils halt online voting trial for local body elections

The proposed trial of online voting in next year’s local body elections will not proceed after the working party comprised of nine councils made the reluctant decision to halt the trial. Although the working party had recently selected a provider that satisfied all of the security and delivery requirements, the cost burden for the councils involved ultimately forced the decision.

While the proposed trial for 2019 has been halted, the working party will continue to work collaboratively with central government and the wider local government sector to deliver online voting for the 2022 local body elections. The working party remains focused on ensuring the legislative and regulatory changes required to enable online voting occur as soon as possible, and on securing the necessary funding to deliver an online solution.

Although online voting has been legal in New Zealand since 2001, current legislation requires the government to make regulations that set out the way an online voting system would work and the expected standards. The working party will continue to work with the Department of Internal Affairs to develop legislation and regulations that would allow online voting in future years.

The working party comprises Auckland Council, Gisborne District Council, Hamilton City Council, Marlborough District Council, Matamata-Piako District Council, Palmerston North City Council, Selwyn District Council, Hamilton City Council, Tauranga City Council and Wellington City Council, supported by independent experts and representatives from LGNZ (Local Government New Zealand) and SOLGM (New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers).

Working Party spokesperson Marguerite Delbet said: “The working party is hugely disappointed that the trial won’t proceed at next year’s local body elections. We will continue to work in partnership with central government and the wider local government network to ensure online voting is a reality for future elections. With rising postal costs, sections of our communities currently unable to vote privately and growing disengagement with elections generally, there is simply too much at stake to give up now.”

The reliance of the local body elections on a postal system which is in long-term decline has forced the local government sector to look at how future elections might be delivered. The complex nature of local body elections means that booth voting is not a viable option and so efforts over the course of the last five years have focused on an online solution. Online voting has been successfully adopted in local and national elections overseas for a number of years.

The working party - with the support of the Department of Internal Affairs - has made significant progress in this area over the course of the last 18 months, proving that with the right regulatory framework and the financial support of the wider central and local government community, a reliable and secure online voting system can be successfully delivered within the local government context.

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