Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Digital votes 'less secure than paper'

Paper votes are still more secure than digital votes.  Photo / Fritha Tagg
Paper votes are still more secure than digital votes. Photo / Fritha Tagg

The Electoral Commission has warned those calling for an electronic voting system that there is, as yet, none which could completely guarantee the security of ballot papers in the way that the paper-only system does.

Speaking at the Justice and Electoral Committee yesterday, the Commission was asked about the security of voting information after a series of privacy breaches across the public sector.

Chief Electoral officer Rob Peden said there was virtually no risk of privacy breaches relating to people's voting information because it was not stored electronically in any form.

The law required the Electoral Commission to deliver all ballot papers to Parliament's clerk where they were stored for six months before they had to be destroyed.

The law would have to change to allow that information to be stored electronically "and why would you want electronic records of how people voted when our whole concept of democracy is based on the idea of a secret ballot"?

"As to how people have voted, we go to huge lengths to protect that information.

"There are demands from various sectors for electronic voting but at present our process is overwhelmingly manual so in terms of cyber-risks the voting process is low risk," said Mr Peden.

Electoral Commission chair Sir Hugh Williams said the Commission would have to be certain of security before it moved to electronic voting.

"It is interesting that internationally nobody seems able to put in place a system of electronic voting that still guarantees the secrecy of the ballot and freedom of the voter from coercion."

However, Mr Peden said, it was the intention to eventually introduce some form of electronic voting. He did expect that by 2014 overseas voters would be able to upload their ballot papers to a secure website. Currently, voting papers were mailed or faxed through by those who could not get to a New Zealand diplomatic post.

Mr Peden said the number of overseas voters had shrunk from about 30,000 to 22,000 and the Commission wanted to lift that to 30,000 again.

One of the problems was that fax machines were not as readily available as in the past.

- NZ Herald

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