ComputerWorld New Zealand
government tipped to lead on electronic voting
Christchurch City Council electoral officer Max Robertson
sees online voting as a distinct possibility for the next local body elections,
a year earlier
By Stephen Bell, Wellington | Monday, 29 October, 2007
Online voting could be implemented for local body elections
in 2010, a year ahead of Parliamentary elections in 2011.
Chief electoral officer Robert Peden was reported as not
discounting a trial of online voting in the 2011 general election, but he was
noncommittal on that when contacted last week. The Electoral Office’s long-term
strategy will not be settled until the end of the year, “and because it’s still
under way, I can’t give details of that strategy or what might happen,” he
However, Christchurch City Council electoral officer Max
Robertson sees online voting as a distinct possibility for the next local body
elections, a year earlier.
“Our next elections are not until 2010, and my feeling is
that electronic voting could become a legally permissible alternative by then,”
Robertson is a member of the electoral working party of the
Society of Local Government Managers (Solgm).
“There is quite a lot of work going on at national and local
level on e-voting,” he says, “but [as at today] there are still a number of
He sent Computerworld a copy of a 2005 story from UK daily
newspaper The Independent, where ministers in that country’s Labour government
gave their reasons for not inviting councils to conduct e-voting trials in the
2006 local body elections.
UK constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman and her
Opposition counterpart, Oliver Heald, said in 2005 that potential security
vulnerabilities made it unwise to introduce e-voting for the 2006 elections.
This decision reflects the current state of thinking in New
Zealand, Robertson says.
Asked whether thinking and technology might have progressed
far enough in the intervening two years to make online voting safer, especially
in light of the NZ State Services Commission’s evolving electronic
authentication system, he says “everybody associated with the electoral process
in New Zealand is well aware of those developments” and the feeling is still
against introducing e-voting in the short term; but it could well be possible
by 2010, given further developments in security and identity management.
Robertson cites another report, this time from the US,
saying computer scientists at Princeton University demonstrated last year that
voting records even from the Diebold electronic terminals in public polling
booths could be intercepted and altered.
With home voting, local commentators have previously said,
the further danger exists that a vote is not secret and may be cast under
coercion from another member of the voter’s household. UK Opposition spokesman
Heald alluded to fraud already shown to have been committed with postal voting,
which is permitted in local elections both here and in the UK.
The disappointing voter turnout for New Zealand local body
elections earlier this month has lent new emphasis to campaigns for e-voting,
Robertson acknowledges, but this may be a false hope.
In 2003, he says, he went with the Auckland electoral
officer to the UK, where they looked at electronic voting trials held in
Liverpool and Sheffield.
“The availability of e-voting did not affect the turnout.”
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