22 Nov 2018

Should New Zealanders send in voting papers online in general elections?

9:11 am on 22 November 2018

Putting general election papers in the post could be a thing of the past if a proposal to allow people to submit ballot papers online gets the tick.

David Farrar at the justice select committee 21 November 2018.

David Farrar at the justice select committee Photo: RNZ / Jo Moir

The idea was put forward by pollster and right-wing blogger David Farrar - one of several suggestions he made to modernise the way people vote.

MPs on the Justice Select Committee met on Wednesday to discuss the results of the inquiry into the 2017 general election and the 2016 local elections.

Mr Farrar told MPs that people associate internet voting with hacking, but there were many ways it could be used to encourage a higher turnout.

He said it could be as simple as using the internet like a post office - people could scan their ballot paper on a mobile phone and email it to the Electoral Commission, which would print it and count it in the normal way.

"So don't just think of this as the internet counting the votes, is there room for the internet to deliver the votes?" Mr Farrar said.

Online voting led to a tripling of the number of New Zealanders living overseas who voted and extending it would improve turnout, he said.

In the past two elections, the number of overseas voters has increased from 20,000 to 60,000.

Mr Farrar suggested the Electoral Commission run both the general and local body elections, so information can be better shared - for example, the details of people registered on the unpublished roll.

Currently, those on the unpublished roll, which includes Mr Farrar, do not have their addresses shared with local authorities, which means he does not get sent voting forms for local body elections.

There are about 30,000 people on the unpublished roll that this affects.

As for campaigning restrictions on election day, Mr Farrar said they should be relaxed and that could be done in a variety of ways.

One is to have an exclusion zone 50m from polling booths, where no hoardings, placards or direct campaigning can take place.

Mr Farrar said passive advertising could be allowed on election day, which would include billboards, hoardings and social media commentary, but people approaching voters directly would not be allowed.

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