Horizons provides in-principle support for online voting trial

Horizons Regional Councillors have agreed in principle to support an online voting trial that may be undertaken by Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) and Whanganui District Council (WDC) at this year’s local body elections but will not contribute to the cost.

Territorial authorities (city and district councils) undertake the voting process on behalf of regional councils and district health boards nationwide. If PNCC and WDC go ahead with the trial, voters in these two constituencies will also have the option of voting online for their regional representatives by default.

The trial will not affect voters in other parts of the Horizons Region and voters in the two constituencies will still be able to vote by post if they choose.

Discussion by Horizons’ councillors as to whether or not to support the online voting trial largely centered on its cost. If Horizons were to contribute financially to the development of an online system this would require an unbudgeted contribution of approximately $24,000-$27,000.

The general feeling amongst councillors was that online voting was positive but security would need to be carefully managed. The majority also felt the cost should be borne by Central Government rather than regional ratepayers as the outcome of the trial would have benefits nationwide.

Horizons councillor for Palmerston North Pat Kelly summarised this by saying “I think we all around this table agree with online voting as an alternative. I do believe there’s a great advantage to having this trial and it is the way the country will go. That’s why I agree to it in principle.

“However, the responsibility should lie with the Government.

“I want the Government to understand that this has got to be a national policy,” he said.

The decision to provide in-principle support was unanimous. Crs Sheldon and Keedwell voted in favour of providing financial support.

PNCC and WDC are currently working through Department of Internal Affairs requirements around the development of online voting processes. A final decision as to whether these councils, and ultimately Horizons, will proceed with online voting will be made in late June 2016.