Online voting trial axed amid security concerns

Online voting trial axed amid security concerns

Two councils that signed up to trial online voting at this year's elections are disappointed at the Government's decision to can it.

Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston says more work needs to be done and there are "real concerns" about security and vote integrity.

"Due to timing restrictions, preparations for the proposed trial have not yet met the legislative requirements and cannot guarantee public confidence in the election results.

"Security testing has been planned but has not yet occurred. Without seeing the results of testing, we cannot be confident the systems are secure enough and the trial could not be authorised."

Eight councils -- Selwyn, Wellington, Porirua, Masterton, Rotorua, Matamata-Piako, Palmerston North and Whanganui -- had all expressed an interest in trialling online voting in this year's elections.

Ms Upston says the councils will be disappointed by the decision, but getting the process right is vital.

"There are significant timeframe pressures in preparing for a trial in this year's local elections and these issues and pressures exacerbate the risks inherent in a trial."

She believes online voting could still be done in future, but there is "still much to learn".  

Wellington's deputy mayor and mayoral candidate Justin Lester has called it a missed opportunity.

"Clearly we're disappointed given the amount of work Wellington City Council and the other participating councils have put in to the exercise so far.

"In the interests of increasing voter turnout we were hoping we'd get the trial across the line for the local elections this October," he says.

However, he understood the need for a "hack-proof, bullet-proof" system in place.

Porirua Mayor and Wellington mayoral candidate Nick Leggett says online voting not going ahead is a "blow to local democracy" and a short-sighted decision.

"The ease, access and convenience of voting online not only benefits modern lifestyles but can also improve participation for overseas voters.

"We need to cater to them and future generations to allow them to engage with democracy on their terms."

He believes those in Porirua have a high proportion of voters who relate to online communities so would benefit from voting via the internet.

Labour local government spokeswoman Meka Whaitiri says axing the trial is a lost opportunity to increase voter turnout.

She believes the Government should have backed the councils or told them much earlier about abandoning the trial.