Mayor lobbies for election e-vote
Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett is urging the Government to allow Porirua to use electronic voting for Local Government elections next year.
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.
Mr Leggett says most people today have a much stronger relationship with the internet than with the post box and, if steps aren’t taken now to expand the ways and means for people to engage with democracy on their terms, they will be effectively disenfranchised.
‘‘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.’’
Mr 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 it might be looking at a trial for the 2016 Local Government Elections. This is too late. We can act now. Porirua is ready.’’
He says the council’s electoral officer has the correct technology and processes to effectively run electronic voting as an addition to postal voting.
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 per cent for private elections and 10 per cent for public elections.
At 32, Mr 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 per cent.
‘‘We want to increase that and we believe that offering this option to a population that’s well connected online will increase participation.’’
Statistics New Zealand data shows that more than 80 per cent of households in the Wellington region have access to the internet and that 95 per cent of 15-24 years and 90 per cent of people aged 25-44 years own mobile phones.
‘‘Online and mobile banking has taken off, with New Zealand being early and heavy adopters 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.’’