Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Vote 'turnoffs' face scrutiny

Auckland Super City election voting papers. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Auckland Super City election voting papers. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The Government has flagged a wide-ranging review of how we vote in the local body elections, including alleged "turnoffs" - the confusing transferable voting system and the three-week voting period.

After last weekend's record low 40 per cent voter turnout in the postal ballot, Local Government Minister Chris Tremain said online voting was definitely the way of the future and should be tested before the next local body elections in 2016.

However, he said yesterday that online voting would give people more choice but on its own would not solve low voter turnout.

He would ask the justice and electoral committee to investigate other ways to lift voter turnout.

"Part of this will be considering the confusion created by the single transferable voting system [STV], especially when voters are presented with [different] voting systems on the same voting papers.

"Another issue that has been raised ... has been the three-week voting timeframe, so it would be timely to consider this as well."

A working party was formed before the election to look at the issues of online voting such as security, costs and access for voters.

The working group was now aiming for a significant online trial before 2016, possibly in a mayoral or council byelection, though it could not be done this year.

Final results of Saturday's poll will be available today.

In Auckland, well-known local board and district health board candidates Christine Rankin-MacIntyre, Allison Roe and Brian Neeson were successful - despite their profiles being left out of a booklet that went out with voting papers.

NZ Post, which was responsible for printing and posting the booklets, said through a spokesman that it was conducting a thorough review of its processes which led to complaints about errors in 80 voter packs.

The company said the level of mistakes was low considering the complex task of producing and delivering more than three million voter packs, with more than 1000 variations to suit local areas.

However, the spokesman said NZ Post was ready to be part of online elections through a partnership with Department of Internal Affairs to use the online verification technology, RealMe, which would enable secure authentication of a person's identity.

Mrs Rankin-MacIntyre said the problem in Auckland was due to "absolute incompetence" and in her view it was more than low voter turnout that spurred the minister to look at an online alternative. "You've to be pretty organised to work through an STV ballot paper to get it right."

Mr Neeson, a former National MP, said he had never been satisfied with postal voting because it was open to corruption by political groups and he said the STV system used for health boards favoured those whose names were near the front of the alphabet.

- NZ Herald

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