Online voting to be trialed in 2019 local body elections

With local body elections coming up in 2019, nine councils across Aotearoa have committed to trialing online voting as a way of making democracy more accessible for all people. It offers a particular benefit for people with access needs, who often cannot vote with confidentiality under the current postal ballot voting system. The trial is dependent on changes to legislation. The Local Electoral Matters Bill is expected to have its final vote at the end of 2018.

The timing for this is just right, as 2018 marks 125 years since Aotearoa gave women the right to vote. Universal access to democracy is now reaching a new phase with the trial for online voting, by making the process itself, and the physical act of voting in an election, inclusive to everyone.

The councils who are trialing this are Auckland Council, Gisborne District Council, Marlborough District Council, Matamata-Piako District Council, Palmerston North City Council, Selwyn District Council, Hamilton City Council, Tauranga City Council and Wellington City Council. While Auckland is only offering the trial to a selection of voters, all other councils will offer it to all voters, but allowing postal voting to anyone who prefers that method.

The booth that was prototyped in 2015 by global design company On Minnie’s Study Tour in May 2018, Minnie and Megan visited the Smithsonian Design Museum to see the Access + Ability Exhibition. Here they came across an accessible voting booth. This booth was prototyped in 2015 by global design company IDEO, in an attempt to design a machine that works for all diverse needs.

As well as making voting accessible, the aim of the trial is to boost voter turnout, increase interest and participation in the election process and democracy. The current concern is that strong voter participation is necessary for a healthy democracy. Because

postal services are in decline, and in the face of decreasing voter turnout – both nationally and locally - councils are looking for effective ways to renew interest in elections.

Auckland Council’s research shows voters have a strong support for online voting, especially by people who are less likely to vote. Online voting is said to make elections more relevant to today’s society, with people now doing most of their activities online – from banking, to shopping, to booking appointments, to applying for jobs.

It is already being used successfully by countries such as France, Canada, Estonia, and Switzerland. In Aotearoa it is used by trade unions and large companies such as Fonterra.