Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Another poor local body election voter turnout - Is it time to bring in online voting?

There has been another poor voter turnout for local body elections. Photo / File
There has been another poor voter turnout for local body elections. Photo / File

We live our lives online.

Bills are paid, medical results checked, and friends and strangers kept informed of our every observation or selfie. But when local body election voting time comes, online is redundant.

Instead, we fill out a paper ballot and, perhaps after checking online where to find a post box, snail mail it to the returning officer.

If we leave it fewer than three days before polls close we must instead hand deliver our ballot to the nearest council service centre or library. Most of us don't bother.

At the close of polls yesterday just 39.5 per cent of Kiwis had voted. In 2013 the figure was 41.3 per cent.

Local Government New Zealand chief executive Malcolm Alexander said it was time to bring in online voting.

Voter turnout at local body elections had plummeted 15 per cent since 1989, when postal voting replaced voting day, Alexander said.

"We've got to ask ourselves, is postal voting fit for purpose? There's no silver bullet, but we are going to look at online voting quite hard ... it's the way of the future, particularly in engaging youth.

"Postal voting doesn't ring their bell. It's like asking a Ferrari driver to ride a horse."

Security had to be dealt with, but others, such as banks, had managed it, Alexander said.

A pilot for online voting was to take place at eight councils this election, but time ran out to set it up properly.

The next three years should be enough time to tackle any problems, and hold another pilot, he said.

"I will be severely disappointed if we are not in a position to do that."

Local Government New Zealand Chief Executive Malcolm Alexander. Photo / Supplied
Local Government New Zealand Chief Executive Malcolm Alexander. Photo / Supplied

Voting day, like the general election, would also help improve turnout, and more civics education wouldn't hurt.

Local Government Associate Minister Louise Upston said falling voter turnout at local body elections was not peculiar to New Zealand, but was concerning.

Online voting was not a panacea, but she supported a pilot scheme next local body election.

"If it proceeds it needs to be on the basis that it is completely secure," she said.

There was already "quite a bit" of civics education, and although a return to voting day could be considered she wanted to know more.

"There are complex reasons why people don't vote.

'One solution doesn't necessarily fix it.

"It's about measuring what's happening this year, and online voting is obviously one of the initiatives on the table."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 20 Feb 2017 07:15:47 Processing Time: 641ms