Online re-enrolment next year, online voting when?

Justice Minister Simon Power is to introduce legislation enabling voters to re-enrol and update their details online in time for next year’s general election. 

Cabinet has decided that legislation to be introduced to Parliament in November, is the first step in a process that will also eventually allow voters to use the Internet to enrol for the first time.

Currently, voters have to complete and sign a written form when enrolling and making changes to their details.

The Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill No.2 allows voters to re-enrol and make changes to their details online using the ‘igovt’ government logon service, which is run by the Department of Internal Affairs. This will take effect from the middle of next year when the legislation is expected to be passed.

The changes will also ensure that all electoral enrolment offences include Internet-based acts.

The Government will also give voters the option of enrolling online, subject to a satisfactory trial of the online re-enrolment service.  A programme for full online enrolment will be developed after next year’s election and introduced in separate legislation.

“Taking advantage of the Internet will make it as simple as possible for people to participate in elections,” Mr Power said.

“In particular, it will make enrolling more accessible to people aged between 18 and 24 who make up approximately 40 per cent of un-enrolled eligible voters.”

 It is sensible to make use of technology providing there are safeguards which enable verification of identity.

Young people are more likely to use online enrolment. They’re also more likely to shift addresses between elections and enrolment packs may not catch up with even if they’ve left a forwarding address.

Full online enrolment will use a robust identify verification service (IVS) which is under development by the Department of Internal Affairs.

“The identify verification service will require voters to provide proof of identity before completing sensitive online transactions with government agencies. 

“The staged roll-out will allow the IVS to be developed in order to make sure the integrity of the electoral system is maintained.”

It’s not a big step from online re-enrolment to online enrolment but it is quite a way from there to online voting.

There’s something about the experience of voting by going to a polling booth with others who are exercising their democratic freedom.

It may also encourage better participation – postal voting for local body elections is cited as one reason participation is much lower than for general elections.

I don’t favour compulsory voting – if we’re free to vote we should also be free to not vote. But robust democracy requires wide participation and online voting could make that easier.

One Response to Online re-enrolment next year, online voting when?

  1. gravedodger says:

    I have serious reservations with any depersonalisation of the electoral process as it leads to disconnection and opportunity for manipulation by the tech literates.
    Fraud and dishonesty are more difficult for other than practiced conmen (conpeople just doesn’t cut it for me) in the glare of scrutiny that the former personal presentation system demanded. Now a candidate too often only has to gather the support of a vociferous minority to garner sufficient national support to be regarded as an asset on a party list.
    Some of my serious doubts with MMP includes the disconnection with both the electorate and those charged with administering the electoral process where a candidate has only to convince the party organisation that they will, by their attraction to a small but committed section of the electorate, bring in a good level of support at national level. In the now discredited in the minds of some, FFP system, candidates had to convince those in the party at local level that they were a fit and proper person to run and then convince a simple majority of the electorate to vote for them in a fairly local (even in larger rural electorates) geographic area. I doubt that a single issue (admittedly a perception thing with me) candidate such as David Garrett would have made it although, that said many rather ordinary candidates did make it but didn’t have the impact D G had in the coalition/horse trading environment we have now. As a largely single issue add-on to the ACT team he undoubtedly had an influence on their popular vote share but would have been unlikely to have garnered sufficient support unless he managed to score a Pahiatua, a Dunedin south, an Otara or a Fendalton.
    A little off topic but with problems (perceived by some) with voter turnout I consider we are not sufficiently sophisticated in the ether world to go towards an electronic system at this time even for such simple things as enrolment. How many at one address would such a system trigger an alert for. We had the recent case in The Super City area (Papatoetoe I think) with some 90 people registering at two addresses and triggering a police investigation.
    Democracy depends on transparency and trust and we dilute those at our peril


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