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Future proofing local elections - the online voting trial


What has happened so far?


We’re looking to modernise and futureproof New Zealand's local electoral system, and provide citizens with a reliable, safe and easier way to vote. To do this, nine councils have agreed in principle to an online voting trial for the 2019 local body elections, subject to some conditions being met - including the costs being acceptable; the legislation and regulations being in place on time; identified risks being manageable; relevant DHBs and regional councils being on board; and the respective councils giving their final approval to proceed later this year.

We are currently working together on a business case that will define the scope, risks and costs involved in the proposed trial. At the same time, we are working closely with the Department of Internal Affairs to ensure the necessary regulatory framework is in place on time to enable the proposed trial in 2019.

This is an exciting project and we want to take as many people as possible on this journey with us. We'll send regular updates to keep you informed on progress with this project and how you can be involved.

Frequently asked questions

1. Will I be able to vote online?

Yes, if the trial goes ahead and you are registered to vote in the elections with one of the councils that participates in the trial at the 2019 local elections. In the case of Auckland Council, any online voting trial will only be offered to a subset (roughly 10%) of electors, with what that subset will be still to be decided. The other eight councils are intending to offer online voting to all their voters.

2. Will I have to vote online?

No, local authorities that allow online voting will have to offer their voters at least one additional way to vote - such as postal voting.

3. Is online voting used anywhere else in NZ or overseas?

Online voting is used successfully in many places overseas, particularly in Canada where its use has increased steadily since first implemented in 2003.

In preparation for participating in the online voting trial the interested councils have reviewed the successes and failures of online voting overseas and are applying lessons learnt to our online voting trial.

Here in New Zealand, online elections have been used to elect members of various producer boards (including Fonterra), companies and iwi authorities. Online voting is even used to conduct the membership component of elections to the Labour Party, and to conduct the ranking of Green Party list candidates.

4. Why are we looking at online voting?

Local government elections use New Zealand’s postal service, which is becoming more expensive, less reliable, and less time effective, so we need to find a viable alternative.

People want to vote online - after the 2016 elections 74% of Aucklanders said that their preferred method would be online voting. Online voting will also make the democratic process more accessible for those overseas or with disabilities that mean they require assistance to cast their vote.

5. Will the system be secure?

The security of the voting system is paramount. We won't proceed if we aren’t confident that we can deliver an online voting system that is equally or more secure than the postal voting system.

No system is ever 100% secure, but we’re working to find an alternative to postal voting with very high levels of security assurance. We’ll be working with IT security experts to ensure stringent auditing, reviewing and penetration testing.

New Zealanders already do lots of things online - like online banking, applying for passports and bank loans, which illustrates how robust our online security processes have become. Similarly, we'll be taking all practicable steps to ensure any online voting security is as secure as possible.

Timeline

Key dates for this project include:

• 26 Sep - Draft tender closing date

• 12 Oct - Final tender closing date

• 23 Nov - Decision on supplier

• Dec - Electoral matters amendment bill passed

• Dec - Councils make their individual decisions on whether to proceed with the trial

Media coverage

Recent media coverage of online voting:

• Radio New Zealand: Online voting needed as postal system declines, says council

• Stuff: Nine councils to decide on online voting trial by Christmas

• Reseller news: Online voting is coming: NZ councils prepare for 2019 trial

ends


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