Masterton online voting put on hold

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Masterton District Council was one of eight New Zealand councils that expressed interest in trialling online voting at the 2016 local elections. PHOTO/FILE
Masterton District Council was one of eight New Zealand councils that expressed interest in trialling online voting at the 2016 local elections. PHOTO/FILE

Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson is "gutted" residents will not get the chance to vote online in the local body elections after the initiative was canned by the Government yesterday because of security issues.

Masterton District Council was one of eight New Zealand councils that expressed interest in trialling online voting at the 2016 local elections.

"Council really supported it so I'm absolutely gutted that Cabinet's decision is to not go ahead with it," Mrs Patterson said.

"The eight trial councils have put a considerable amount of time and energy into meeting the requirements that central government asked of us, so we're very disappointed and I'm pretty gutted that it can't go ahead.

"When you look at the trend of people who are engaging with local government, the voting stats have been slipping for years.

"This was a way to encourage people to vote and go online, see all their candidates and vote using the technology that is available."

Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston confirmed yesterday the online voting trial proposed for this year's local body elections would not proceed because more work was required to ensure a trial met public and government expectations. "Given real concerns about security and vote integrity, it is too early for a trial.

"Due to timing restrictions preparations for the proposed trial have not yet met the legislative requirements and cannot guarantee public confidence in the election results.

"Security testing has been planned but has not yet occurred. Without seeing the results of testing we cannot be confident the systems are secure enough, and the trial could not be authorised."

Mayor Lyn Patterson said there were risks with online voting "but there's always risks with postal voting as well".

"There's risks with all voting systems but we need to be able to have the courage to mitigate those risks as much as we can, and we believed we had shown as a sector that we could do that," she said.

Ms Upston acknowledged the work done by councils and service providers on their proposals and she understood their disappointment that the trials would not go ahead this year as hoped.

"Voting is a fundamental right of New Zealand citizens and public trust in electoral systems and results is paramount.

"Maintaining public confidence and understanding of local electoral processes is more important than trialling online voting this year," Ms Upston added.

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