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.