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Porirua Mayor Pushing Government for Online Voting

13 August 2012

Porirua Mayor Pushing Govt for Online Voting

Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett is urging the Government to allow Porirua to use electronic voting for Local Government elections next year.

"Most people today have a much stronger relationship with the internet than with the post box," he says.

"If we don't move now to expand the ways and means for current and coming generations to engage with democracy on their terms we are effectively disenfranchising them. I can't stand by and see a growing number of New Zealanders (those under 50) shut out because they don't relate to the method of voting."

Following consultation with its community, the Porirua City Council has asked the Government if it can be a trial Council for electronic voting at the October 2013 elections. This would be in addition to the regular postal voting.

"Our Electoral Officer has informed us he has the correct technology and processes to effectively run electronic voting as an addition to postal voting for our community," Mayor Leggett says.

E-voting started in New Zealand in 2000 and more than 700 online elections have been held since then. Online voting returns have increased over time with an average of 35% for private elections and 10% for public elections.

At 32, Nick Leggett is the youngest Mayor in New Zealand and Porirua City has the youngest population in New Zealand. Voter turnout at the last Local Body election in 2010 was a poor 38%.

"We want to increase that and we believe that offering this option to a population that's well connected online will increase participation," says Mayor Leggett.

"It is an anachronism to expect many voters to fill out ballots, find a post box and then send them by mail. Many people don't interact with postal services these days – using computers or mobile devices like i-phones are a much more natural way of promoting democratic participation and we want the option to do this here in Porirua."

Statistics New Zealand data shows that over 80% of households in the Wellington region have access to the internet and that 95% of 15-24 years and 90% of people aged 25-44 years own mobile phones.

"It's these age groups where low voter turnout is highest. It concerns me that if we don't establish the habit of voting now for younger people, they will never participate.

"Online and mobile banking has taken off, with New Zealand being early and heavy adapters of this technology. I'd like to see similar applications developed for central and local government democracy that would facilitate easy enrolment, information and voting."

Mayor Leggett says a simple change to regulations is all that is required to facilitate an e-voting trial and he has written to the government requesting a meeting to discuss the Council's proposal in more detail.

"Currently the Department of Internal Affairs has indicated they might be looking at a trial for the 2016 Local Government Elections. This is too late. We can act now. Porirua is ready."

ENDS

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