Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Support for web voting trial

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Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick.

Rotorua's mayor has confirmed the Rotorua Lakes Council is committed to trialling online voting at this year's local election, following rumours the Government is about to announce it will not support the trial.

But, according to a spokesman from the office of Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston, Cabinet is yet to make its final decision.

The council is one of eight councils that has asked to be involved in the trial in the hope it would increase voter turnout, which was 43 per cent at the last election in 2013.

"We saw it as progressive and as having real potential to increase local voter turnout," Mrs Chadwick said. "Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston is dealing with the trial and we were recently made aware she might have some concerns that could put the trial under threat.

"Along with other mayors, I've written to Ms Upston expressing our council's commitment to the trial. We've followed the process that was set up in good faith," she said. "All we can do now is wait for Cabinet's decision, which is expected this month.

We hope Cabinet will decide to go ahead with it."

The Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers group, that made submissions against the proposed trial, has welcomed the rumours and hopes the trial won't go ahead.

The group's mayoral candidate Dr Reynold Macpherson said the council had not considered the negative implications of the trial.

"Online voting trials have seen no significant differences in voting behaviours. Why would our cash-strapped council spend another $100,000 to the $200,000 already spent on postal voting?

"International research shows that software security could not be guaranteed, as required by Cabinet. We shared the same advice at national level and will be delighted if good sense prevails," he said.

Chairwoman of the council's recent "Your Choice" representation review, councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who had been a strong supporter of the trial, said she would be disappointed if it was not approved.

"I support anything that would encourage people to vote who may not have voted in the past, particularly young people and Maori.

"I think it's rather sad, because if you make it easier to get involved in the process they may take more interest in what is going on locally and this would be one way to bring people into the voting system.

"It would be a disappointment, because we have put at lot of work into it," she said.

A spokesman from Ms Upston's office confirmed no decision had yet been made.

"The minister, working with the Department of Internal Affairs, have undertaken a consultation process and as a courtesy sent an email to the mayors of the councils involved, to keep them in the loop."

He said a final decision was expected next week.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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