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April 23, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Political Porn With Hamish

FOR THE REGION, THE NATION, AND OUR GENERATION, THE PICK IS A MODERN UPDATE TO OUR ELECTORAL SYSTEM

Recently, many have been submitting to the Electoral Commission as part of their review into MMP. The Commission is seeking submissions from wide cross-section of society, advertising the review through a variety of mediums, with public hearings to be held up and down the country.

When I thought about personally submitting, I thought about how to change our electoral system for the better through three lenses. I’ve thought about which changes would be best for the Wellington region. I’ve thought about which changes would be best for the nation. Finally, I thought about which changes would be best for our generation—a generation that is clearly not engaging with the political process as it stands.

After careful consideration, it has become clear that the best option for all three is electronic voting. That’s why I will be submitting in support of, and encouraging others to do similarly, a trial of e-voting by Porirua City Council.

As part of a government initiative, councils are being invited to request to take part in a trial of e-voting for next year’s local body elections.

This month, the Porirua City Council are calling for submissions on whether the council should request to be a trial city for electronic voting during next year’s local body elections. Online, or e-voting, will provide an additional method of voting, alongside the current postal ballot.

With last year’s record low 68 per cent turnout for the general election and the traditionally low turnout for local elections, something needs to be done to facilitate greater engagement in democracy. Forget changing the threshold or abolishing electorate seat lifeboat, it’s e-voting has the greatest potential to see citizens return to ballot box, even if that ballot is online.

An electronic voting system that could allow people to vote via desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile, integrated with apps and social media puts voting into the realm of generation-Y. Most people my age rarely get mail, they do everything online, why shouldn’t they vote online as well? Facebook tells me that my friends have read something on the Guardian, why shouldn’t it tell me that my friend has just voted in the City Council elections and invite me to do so?

Integrating online voting and social media brings voting to people’s attention. It makes voting easy and accessible. It prevents people from making errors when voting using the STV system. It promotes thought and discussion, something which the postal vote and its candidate booklet with 200 word blurbs doesn’t.

E-voting has the appeal needed to attract those disinterested with the current political and electoral process. It’s the shake up our local governments need more than any other suggestion that’s come from the Beehive. Evidence shows it works too; the Canadian municipality of Markham, Ontario adopted the e-vote in 2003, resulting in turnout increasing by 48 per cent at its next election.

There are issues around security and accessibility. After all, it is fine for me to say we need e-voting, but what about others who are not as e-savvy? The solution to accessibility is to continue to allow electors the option to cast their ballot via the post.

In terms of security, this is a legitimate and serious concern. However, all electoral systems are susceptible to security issues. Nobody knows, for example, who exactly is posting off the ballots currently. My identity was never verified at the polling station on November 26th. The online voting system will undoubtedly be tested to a rigorous standard to ensure no election is compromised.

Many are arguing for online voting to be trialled; the Green Party, the Electoral and Justice Select Committee are just two examples. Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett has been vocal and pushed the agenda, something which must be praised.

Time, however, has come for the rhetoric to be put into practice. Time has come for the e-vote to be trialled.

*the title to this piece was inspired by http://is.gd/MwDg0g. 

HAMISH IS GENERALLY WRONG. TELL HIM WHY ON TWITTER: @MISHVIEWS 

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