E-vot­ing the fu­ture of democ­racy


Many peo­ple have been sub­mit­ting to the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion as part of the re­view of MMP.

The com­mis­sion is seek­ing sub­mis­sions from a wide cross­sec­tion of so­ci­ety, ad­ver­tis­ing the re­view through a va­ri­ety of medi­ums, with public hear­ings to be held up and down the coun­try.

When I thought about sub­mit­ting, I thought about how to change our elec­toral sys­tem for the bet­ter through three lenses. I’ve thought about which changes would be best for the Welling­ton re­gion. I’ve thought about which changes would be best for the na­tion. Fi­nally, I thought about which changes would be best for our gen­er­a­tion – a gen­er­a­tion that is clearly not en­gag­ing with the po­lit­i­cal process as it stands.

The best op­tion for all three is e-vot­ing. That’s why I will be sub­mit­ting in sup­port of, and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to do sim­i­larly, a trial of e-vot­ing by the Porirua City Coun­cil.

Coun­cils are be­ing in­vited to take part in a trial of e-vot­ing for next year’s lo­cal body elec­tions.

This month, the Porirua City Coun­cil is call­ing for sub­mis­sions on whether it should ask to be an elec­tronic vot­ing trial city. On­line, or e- vot­ing, will pro­vide an ad­di­tional method of vot­ing, along­side the postal bal­lot.

With last year’s record low 68 per cent turnout for the gen­eral elec­tion and the tra­di­tion­ally low turnout for lo­cal elec­tions, some­thing needs to be done to fa­cil­i­tate greater en­gage­ment in democ­racy.

An elec­tronic vot­ing sys­tem that could al­low peo­ple to vote via desk­top, lap­top, tablet and mo­bile, in­te­grated with apps and so­cial me­dia puts vot­ing into the realm of gen­er­a­tion-y.

Most peo­ple my age rarely get mail, they do ev­ery­thing on­line. Why shouldn’t they vote on­line as well? Face­book tells me that my friends have read some­thing in the Guardian, why shouldn’t it tell me that my friend has just voted in the city coun­cil elec­tions and in­vite me to do so?

In­te­grat­ing on­line vot­ing and so­cial me­dia brings vot­ing to peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. It makes vot­ing easy and ac­ces­si­ble. It pre­vents peo­ple from mak­ing er­rors when vot­ing us­ing the STV sys­tem. It pro­motes thought and dis­cus­sion, some­thing which the postal vote and its can­di­date book­let with 200 word blurbs doesn’t.

Ev­i­dence shows it works too; the Cana­dian mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Markham, On­tario adopted the e-vote in 2003, re­sult­ing in turnout in­creas­ing by 48 per cent at its next elec­tion.

There are is­sues around se­cu­rity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity. The so­lu­tion to ac­ces­si­bil­ity is to con­tinue to al­low elec­tors the op­tion to cast their bal­lot via the post.

In terms of se­cu­rity, this is a le­git­i­mate and se­ri­ous con­cern. How­ever, all elec­toral sys­tems are sus­cep­ti­ble to se­cu­rity is­sues. No­body knows, for ex­am­ple, who ex­actly is post­ing off the bal­lots cur­rently.

Hamish Mc­connochie is the po­lit­i­cal colum­nist at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity’s Salient Mag­a­zine.

Hamish Mc­connochie

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