Good, online voting axed

I’m not a fan of online voting.

Local Government minister Louise Upston has axed a plan to have online voting in eight council elections in November .

Councillors in Wellington, Porirua, Masterton, Rotorua, Matamata Piako, Palmerston North,  Whanganui and Selwyn had voted to offer online voting as an option. And Local Government NZ was actively promoting it as a vehicle to boost participation as recently as January. They have now been over-ruled.

It was always pitched as a “trial” – presumably to make it less intimidating from a PR perspective – but it was going to be the real thing: Online votes in November would have been legal and binding. It would have been better termed a pilot.

“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,” Ms Upston says. The system needs more work, she says.  

There was a fierce debate before a series of council votes in August and September last year. Some, like Dunedin and Christchurch, voted against the “trial” after hearing from a group of software developers led by David Lane. Mr Lane argued online voting was too fraught with potential vulnerabilities (Auckland Council was keen, but the government said it was too large to participate in the “trial”).

A voice on the pro side was tech commentator and IT consultant Ian Apperly, who called Mr Lane and his allies “dinosaurs.” He noted while there had been some flawed trials, there were no examples of actual online ballots being compromised (read more of their arguments here). And Steve Kilpatrick, head of, which was to provide the technology, said his company’s platform had a proven record in board and iwi elections (read more on the pro and con arguments here).

In the middle was Institute of IT Professionals [IITP] chief executive Paul Matthews, who served on the government’s Online Voting Working Group (assembled by Ms Upston’s predecessor Chris Tremain) that laid the groundwork for the online voting pilot.

Mr Matthew favoured a pilot for local body elections, where it was relatively easy to make a case for online voting being as secure or more secure than postal voting.

But he was more cautious about online voting’s potential to replace a physical ballot box at a general election.

My view is that if you can’t be bothered filling in a postal ballot or voting at a polling station then you don’t deserve a vote.

There is nothing wrong with requiring people to attend a polling booth, it is a small price for democracy. I would even ditch postal ballots, as the rationale for introducing postal ballots was to increase participation, and that has failed too.



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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.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.