Agreeing with Chris Trotter about online voting

There are plenty of fools out there who think that electronic voting is nirvana, that it will engage the yoof to vote and increase participation in our democracy.

I disagree, and so does Chris Trotter. Electronic voting won’t deliver what proponents say it will, in fact it is likely to increase distrust in the voting process.

There are already conspiracy theorists out there who think John Key rigs ballot boxes, imagine if there was electronic voting, you’d ahve accusations of Merril Lynch funding the software company from the time of John Key’s involvement and therefore the process must be corrupt.

DEREK HANDLEY bubbles over with faith in the future. As a precocious inductee to the Silicon Alley Hall of Fame, he is blazingly confident that capitalism, information technology and the entrepreneurial spirit are never going to encounter a challenge they cannot rise to – or overcome.

Like the failure of close to half of New Zealand citizens aged under 30 to engage in the electoral process.

On this subject Mr Handley is typically forthright:

“Everybody under 30 has grown up with the internet and mobile devices to do practically everything online yet they still can’t vote online. [This has resulted] in an entire generation being pushed to the sidelines of democracy not because they don’t care, but because it hasn’t kept up with them.”

Setting aside Mr Handley’s bubbly confidence in all things “online”, this is utter tosh. An “entire generation” has not been “pushed to the sidelines of democracy”, they have ambled there entirely of their own accord. Not only do they not “care” about democracy, but an alarming number of them would also struggle to tell you what it is.

In my opinion Derek Handley is a jumped up pretentious tosspot. My dearly departed grandfather once commented (ok it was a lot) that empty vessels make the most noise. This is Derek Handley.

Trotter is dead right about the dead set useless yoof who let themselves become disengaged in democracy.

Far from democracy failing to keep up with the needs of the younger generation, one out of every two New Zealanders under 30 has failed conspicuously to keep up with the most fundamental facts of political life.

The most important of these is that politics (and elections) are activities to be participated in collectively – not individually. The moment this central fact of political life is forgotten, the logic of participation collapses in on itself.

A recent article by Fairfax journalists Paul Easton and Simon Day vividly illustrates what happens when the prospect of casting a vote is viewed through an individualistic, as opposed to a collectivist, lens.

Asked why he didn’t vote, Johnny, aged 20, and described simply as “dad”, declared:

“I didn’t see the point. My life is good as it is. I don’t like John Key, but I thought he was going to get in anyway so I didn’t vote. I would vote if it meant getting stuff I was keen for.”

Look at that selfishness from a yoof voter. Nothing in it for him so won’t vote.Helen Clark will be aghast, she spent decades training people to vote for themselves with all her bribes, extension of middle class welfare and free money for students. The lesson seems to have been missed.

As for the naked appeal to self-enrichment: in which democracy is turned into one of those “goody-bags” that public relations firms and party hostesses pass out; it is difficult to conceive of a sentence which sums up more succinctly the tragically distorted values of Mr Handley’s side-lined generation.

Hey Kids! Want stuff that your keen for? Just slide your ballot paper into this box. See? Easy-peasy! Have a nice day!

I doubt electronic voting would make a difference…it would mean the lazy sods would have to go to another website that wasn’t conveniently linked for them to achieve the goal without having to trouble their clicking finger too much.

Would digitising the process, as Mr Handley urges, solve the problem? Of course not. If anything, it would make it worse.

Online Voting represents the ultimate step towards individualising – and hence trivialising and debasing – the collective act of voting in elections. Even more than it does now, the conduct of politics would come to resemble a television show. The nation’s political future would be decided by a slightly less revved-up version of The X Factor. (With Mike Hosking playing the part of Simon Cowell!)

But, of course, the “kids” would soon get bored. The contestants would be too old, too ugly and too serious to hold their attention for more than one “season” of the “show” – if that. Having sampled the “Politics” app, and been disappointed, they’d move on to something more exciting – like “Tinder”.

Heh, give a student bloke an option of voting, or getting out the scratcher when there is a naked chick beside them and the scratcher wins every time.

Which means, Mr Handley, that it would all have been for nothing. Whatever slight upward tick in participation the initial introduction of Online Voting might produce would soon dissipate – just as the “beneficial” effects of Postal Voting all-too-rapidly faded away.

Even worse, we would have traded a system of voting that is admirably secure and extremely difficult to subvert (without “the fix” very quickly becoming obvious) for a system that could be hacked into as easily as the “Guardians of Peace” hacked into the hard-drives of Sony Pictures. The crucial difference being that we’d never know it had happened.

And who do you trust anymore? The media? The hackers? The government?…A system, like we have at present, that requires armies of paid workers and volunteers to administer is far less susceptible to corruption than an electronic system controlled by few.

That five minute stroll to the nearest polling-booth every three years is one of the very few opportunities for meaningful civic engagement still available to New Zealanders. The sight of black and white, women and men, old and young collectively determining the future of their nation never fails to move me to tears. Because those people, my fellow citizens, are not voting for themselves, or for “stuff” they might be “keen for”. They know that their single ballot paper will not, of itself, make very much difference. But that’s not the point. The point is that out of the great and mysterious gestalt of democracy a decision emerges – and it is ours.

I’m with Trotter on this. I think getting up to go tot eh voting booth is a very small price to pay for maintaining integrity in our voting system

People like Derek Handley and David Farrar can go jump with their promoting of electronic voting. Mostly those promoting it are deeply selfish themselves and their reasoning consists of how marvellous it would for them to not have to go tot he voting booth.

It most certainly will not promote an increased turn out…postal ballots was supposed to do that in local body elections…but even then people were too lazy to take a piece of paper out of an envelope, tick it and put it back in another provided envelope and put it in one of the conveniently located posts boxes in our streets.

Nope, I say we maintain our current system. I like going to the voting booth.


– Bowalley Road


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  • MaryLou

    Democracy as a collective? How horrifying! The result may be collective – or collected – but the act is supposed to be totally individual and personal. Which is why only one person is allowed in a voting booth at a time. To me that shows a really scary outlook on how democracy is supposed to function.

    • Elinor_Dashwood

      Completely agree. I simply do not understand what this “collective participation” is supposed to mean. Each of us has one vote which we cast individually, and each of us has our own reasons for how we vote. That would be the same whether voting required a trip to the voting booth or extended to include the option of a click on a website. How does Trotter know that people at voting booths are not voting for themselves and for stuff they are keen on?
      What really seems to be at issue here is that some people don’t use their votes carefully, responsibly or with a mind to the greater good. That’s true; and it is absolutely inherent to “one person, one vote”. If you really wanted to strike at the heart of democracy by preventing the undeserving from voting, that is actually something that a system of electronic voting could enable. You could, for example, require people to demonstrate a basic level of literacy and awareness of current political issues (Who is the Prime Minister? Which party intends to sell off state assets? Which of the following five choices are Green party policy? Which party does Winston Peters lead?) before the website would allow them to cast their vote. That seems to me to be a better-targeted and more direct test of fitness to vote than whether you are prepared to make the effort to walk to a polling station and write an x in a couple of boxes.

      • MaryLou

        Yes, the “collective” to me sounds distinctly Russian!

  • MaryLou

    Aargh – with this idea of mobile voting, I’m now seeing little DotComs organising “voting parties”, where everyone gets sloshed and incited to press 1 together for a better future. Horrible, horrible thought.

    • ozbob68

      Actually that is a very good point. Sobriety (and other factors indicating someone having presence of mind to make an informed decision) can’t be evaluated remotely via a computer. But has anyone ever been prevented from voting by being intoxicated or non-compos-mentis? I recall the controversy when carers were instructing mentally-handicapped voters who to vote for. Can someone with dementia make an informed decision? Should there be a capability test for the temporarily (and permanently) mentally impaired to vote?

      • MaryLou

        That’s a really hard one ozbob – in terms of dementia at least. So I’ll go for the easy one – I first thought you said nincompoop-itis, for which I don’t currently think there’s a five second test for! But definitely anyone visibly impaired by drink or drugs should be turned away at the voting booth…

        Maybe a five-question general knowledge test before going into the box to weed out the nincompoops?

      • Pharmachick

        Yes, but the same could apply for any absentee voting, e.g. the fax-it-in business for o/seas voters.

  • Bazza63

    Funny how the Left want less Government surveillance of people but want electronic voting. To enable electronic voting to work you are going to require a lot of personal information to identify a person electronically to ensure that the person voting is who they say they are.

    • Rocket

      Scrolling through these comments and I have to agree with everything said.
      But Bazza you have provided the one reason to utilize on-line voting. That is that all genuine NZers would need to have an I.D. that could not be forged.
      Just think of all those criminals who use false identities; all the “parents” who avoid responsibility for their spawn; all the wasted police and court time; all the “illegals” who should not be in NZ at all; all the beneficiary rip-offs.

      • Bazza63

        Interesting idea, I never thought of that.

  • mike

    Voting should require some sort effort. If you can’t be bothered getting out of bed and going down to your local polling booth then you shouldn’t vote.

    It shows a contempt and complete disregard for this most precious privilege.

    • MaryLou

      And a degree of selfishness and immaturity not compatible with the importance for the whole country of the outcome.

      • ex-JAFA

        When we’ve had the likes of McGillicuddy Serious, Bill & Ben, Natural Law and the Internanas, there’s ample evidence of immaturity in the election process. Making expressions of immaturity easier won’t help the integrity of the process.

  • Jimmie

    Also it opens up democracy to being influenced/disrupted by hackers and their like.

    How hard would it be to knock out the various election websites? How about hacking the election databases and changing results?

    hard to do that with a box of paper with 5 scrutineers watching.

  • T Mardell

    Voting is, and should be, a process to be respected and protected. I have no issues with younger members of society not voting, as their disinterest would not serve the country well if they were forced to do so.

    Personally, I’d support raising the voting age to something like 30 or 40yrs, and make it a right of passage for those with life experience, guiding the younger members of society.

    If it was reduced to say 16yrs, like the Greens seem to wish for, a person is yet to learn fundamental life’s lessons, and as parents and grandparents we see, they are easily taken by fads and the current cause célèbre. And that can create an instability in Government with superficialities dominating attention.

  • Tedrick

    Trotter, the logical, erudite voice of the left. thank whoever it is that the rest are not of that quality.
    As to voting method, the vote worthy of attention and influence is the one that takes a little effort. ie Walking to the Poling Booth, a conscious effort to do something is made and a little (or a lot) of thought is put into the allocation of the vote.
    A quick look at the mess that is voting in jurisdictions using methods other than our “old fashioned” one (mechanical; electronic etc) and you have the answer.
    What we have isn’t broken so we do not need to “fix” it. What we need to fix is our collective attitude to politics and join in collectively.

  • Expect the worst

  • Nic C

    All this disillusion Handley toss-pot is succeeding in doing is exposing his age-disconnect, his complete lack of understanding of the younger ‘internet’ generation and most importantly, trivializing the significance of their right to vote to that of a Twitter tweet.
    Fortunately we have the benefit of hindsight and experience from watching the farce that is the US ‘electronic’ elections every four years and observing just how easily compromised these ridiculous electronic voting machines are, by those who have the contracts to build and program them…. conveniently manufactured by companies that donate large sums to the political campaigns of those who issue the contracts.
    All programs and coders leave ‘back-doors’ into their software… this alone should be enough of a reason to avoid these things like the plague, in the name fair and transparent election results.

    edit: spelling

  • Cadwallader

    I have some shareholdings in a few private companies which operate e-voting. While it saves traveling to the Head Office to vote, the undergrowth of passwords and identity procedures acts as a barrier to vote. I cannot see the problem of visiting a school hall or similar to cast a vote. The visit gives one the opportunity to “debate” with scrutineers from certain parties.

  • Going to the polling booth is about commitment to a process. If people are too indolent to take themselves to a polling station then we don’t need their input to the democratic process. Electronic voting is open to all sorts of pressure – and as MaryLou says, the risk of voting ‘parties’ allows undue influence to be brought. The polling booth ensures each voter (as much as is possible anyway) exercises their right independently of influence.
    Basically, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

    • In Vino Veritas

      It is only the left that feel that it is broken Grampus. Because they believe that the “missing million” are all disaffected and would vote for them.

  • Cowgirl

    As someone who had to do the online vote from overseas, I would say doing it online will not increase turn-out one jot. There were various hoops to jump through to prove identity and it wasn’t a 5 minute process. Going to the polling booth would have been easier and cheaper. The only people who would do that are the ones determined to vote – and determined is the operative word – because you won’t get anyone bothering to vote in any format who isn’t determined to do so. Determined to have their say, determined to engage in the process and willing to make the effort to do so. Until the yoof realise that, the process will be left to those of us willing to make the effort for the collective good.

  • In Vino Veritas

    Face it, selfishness is the prerogative of the young. Always has been and always will be. Ask Kim Dotcom. For a free beer or five, he got a whole bunch of youngsters shouting nasty things about John Key.

  • ozbob68

    Actually let’s make it harder to vote. If I had to attend a series of lectures on politics and the governmental process and then sit an exam in order to vote, I would. I don’t think most voters have a clue how the political system works (both in front of and behind the scenes) and it shows in a few results (the greens at 11% [shudders])

    • Kevin

      And if ever Labour gets back in they’ll rig it so that only people who think “communism works it’s just that it’s never been properly implemented” are allowed to vote.

  • SkeptiK

    Why Trotter would bother to rebut Handley is beyond me. He is best ignored. Seems to have a great regard for his own importance but the share price performance of his baby company Snakk is pretty underwhelming. I don’t know that Handley has actually achieved very much, he just makes a lot of noise,

  • Whitey

    Trotter is right to say that online voting won’t increase the yoof vote, but he’s wrong about why yoof don’t vote, and his assertion that individualising the act of voting trivialises and debases it is honestly quite disturbing.

    The attitude of lazy yoof like “Johnny” is not caused by viewing the voting process “through an individualistic, as opposed to a collectivist, lens”. It is caused by immaturity and irresponsibility. Young non-voters do not have enough life skills and life experience to realise how much influence the government has on our lives. They have little to no grasp of what it means to take responsibility for their own lives, and because they generally haven’t achieved anything much in life they have nothing to lose whatever the outcome of the election.

    I’m under 30 myself. I know people like this, and they won’t vote online, because they just don’t get it. The only way to make them vote is to take them to the polling place and tell them which box to tick with the promise of a can of Cody’s 8% once they’ve finished. That’s not democracy and it’s not good for society.

  • I know a couple of people who would love on line voting, then their wives would vote for who they were damn well told and not hide in that little booth thing and vote for who they wanted.

    • MaryLou


  • BlitzkriegNZ

    The fact it’s only idiot lefties pushing online voting is proof that they admit that other idiot lefties are too lazy to get to a booth. Even more stupid is that they think all the non voters are stupid enough to be leftie voters if they did bother.

  • BR

    If someone is too stupid or lazy to vote, it’s better that they don’t.


  • Garbageman

    Girls cars and boozing were the only things that interested my m8s and i when we all yoofs, politics was never discussed way to many active hormones to contend with, i dont think any of us ever voted either that im aware of, the reality is its all just so boring when you are young
    as for online voting im sure we could trust all those people that believe hacking someones emails is in the public good cant we

  • Jaffa

    I don’t want it easier to vote, I want it HARDER!

    I want the voting paper so complicated to fill in correctly, that the idiots will disqualify themselves!

    Some idiots can’t put a tick in the right place, they put a cross, or a circle round the name, or underline it, if they had crayons, they would colour it in.

    I want them disqualified!

  • Correctly audited by appropriate impartial parties, i see no reason it won’t work, but it will involve some form of identity database, question that only the voting person would know to protect against multiple voting. And that database is going to cause still more grief. It will eventually be applied i’m sure in the long term, but i don’t think it will be in the next election or 3.

  • ex-JAFA

    We can’t get a WOF for our car online because the integrity of the vehicle can’t be tested. Similarly, online voting (with the enormous potential to cheat the system) cannot test the integrity of the vote or voter. Scrutineers during voting and counting provide that integrity.

    • Elinor_Dashwood

      How do scrutineers test the integrity of the voter?

      • ex-JAFA

        Umm… by checking their identity, perhaps? Yes, people could steal someone else’s voting card, and/or vote under someone else’s name in the days before voting cards are issued, but there’s little evidence of that happening. Much easier to fool a computer.

        • Elinor_Dashwood

          That depends on how the computer is programmed surely. If systems can be developed and deployed to enable me and nobody else to get into and manage my bank account and my dealings with IRD then it cannot be impossible to develop and deploy a system which would enable legitimate voting and prevent illegitimate voting.

          • ex-JAFA

            But your bank and the IRD do NOT have systems in place which allow you and only you access to your information. Their own staff and any contractors who were involved with building the system have access, as does any Joe Public who can fool their systems into thinking that they’re you.

  • Wheninrome

    People need to leave their house at some stage in their lives, even if it is just to go and cast their vote. Only way to see what is happening in the real world. There is enough done “on line” now.
    Imagine if the server crashed, got “hacked” etc., etc., we really would become a banana republic.
    Stick with the physical and require everyone to get off their backsides and cast a vote. If people are interested they will.
    If we want a bigger turnout it is in the hands of the politicians to get back to “local hall” meetings.
    I don’t buy the argument that people don’t vote because they feel disenfranchised. I buy the argument that if people are happy with the status quo they are less like to cast a vote.
    With hacking seeming to become the “norm” for some sections of society imagine, the result known before it is official. Imagine the share market, futures trading etc.,

    • ex-JAFA

      For “result known”, substitute “result determined”.

  • Wheninrome

    Imagine Teachers getting in on the act and persuading those impressionable young minds. Another slot in the timetable, voting. Could be an NCEA exam. AN “A” pass to the left a “B” pass to the right. Bryce Edwards at Otago , wow.

  • Nebman

    The idea of online voting literally scares the Bejesus out of me! It would break it down to a straight vox pop poll and whoever came up with the most popular soundbite would in all probability command the majority or at least decide who ended up running the show.

  • Sagacious Blonde

    I didn’t particularly like the vote early option this election. With all that came out in the last two weeks of the campaign, I wonder if there was any ‘voter remorse’ come election day.
    It also makes a bit of a nonsense of the removing of hoardings the night before and rules around electioneering on the day.

  • D.Dave

    Bah, humbug to online voting….. People need to get off their chuffs and physically vote. To the nay sayers, what about KDC hacking/rigging the result. Online is not safe. Who would notice Martin/Martyn casting his two votes. The whole idea sucks, bigtime…..

  • dgrogan

    So Dotcom hacked the German Chancellors credit rating. Imagine the fun he and his cyber warriors could have hacking New Zealand’s electronic electoral votes.

  • Warren Murray

    Totally agree. Advance voting has met the needs of those who, for what ever the reason can’t vote on polling day.

    Participation in Local government elections has declined despite the convenience of postal voting, so why would you expect electronic voting to increase participation?

  • damm good thrashing

    We need to make voting as difficult as possible….then only the intelligent will be capable of voting.

  • Richard McGrath

    Only those actually paying positive net tax should get a vote.