Using online firm a natural progression - mayor

By john.maslin@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

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Using an Auckland firm to look at online security for electronic voting has been described as a natural progression by Whanganui's mayor.

Annette Main was responding to comments from district councillor Rob Vinsen who last week said the move was committing the council to being a part of an online voting trial the Government is considering running in this October's local body elections.

No decision has been made whether the trial will actually happen but Whanganui is one of eight councils short-listed for a possible trial. A dummy run is estimated to cost council $75,000 but Mr Vinsen said nothing had been discussed at the Whanganui District Council table.

He said it was a waste of money and indicated council was getting beyond the point of no return: "The next thing will be to say that we can't pull out now, we're committed."

Ms Main confirmed that her council was working with Independent Election Services on implementing the online system.

She said the company already provides voting software which the Whanganui council uses during elections, "so it is a natural progression to use this company for the online voting trial".

"The cost for using Independent Elections Services is $50,000, part of which we will recoup from other parties who we run voting services for."

The council runs the elections for itself as well as the Whanganui District Health Board and Horizons Regional Council in this district. Ms Main said the cost of using the Auckland firm was part of the $75,000 the council allocated for the trial.

"As a council which is a leader in the use of online services, we look forward to being part of the online voting trial if the Government agrees to go ahead. The growing uptake of ultrafast broadband in our district demonstrates that people expect to be able to do more online, with voting being no different.

"While it may not be the complete answer to low voter turnout in New Zealand, it's a tool which will enable more people in our community to take part in deciding who they want to see around their council table, using the technology that has become part of their daily life."

Government is expected to make its decision next month.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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