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

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.