DCC volunteers for online voting

The Dunedin City Council has volunteered to participate in a planned trial of online voting in a bid to reverse a trend of dwindling voter turnout.

Councillors at Monday's full council meeting voted to volunteer for a trial, plans for which were being considered by an online working party established by the Government last year.

The working party was to study the feasibility of online voting in local body elections and identify options for a trial, at or before the next local body elections in 2016, before implementing any new system across the board.

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of Cr Kate Wilson's suggestion the council indicate it wished to participate in any trial that was held.

The move came after voter turnout in Dunedin dropped to just 43.10% at last year's local body elections.

Cr Jinty MacTavish told the meeting she doubted online voting would solve that problem or encourage people to make a more informed vote.

However, it would ''make all the difference'' for the city's transient student population, who could be out of the city at the time of year elections were held.

Cr Neville Peat also supported the move, saying it would align with the council's digital strategy, while Cr Hilary Calvert did as well, but hoped any cost would be borne by central government and not ratepayers.

A report by Dunedin electoral officer Pam Jordan said the working party examining online voting would study the opportunities and risks posed by any change, including access issues.

The project was launched in response to calls for change from some councils, Local Government New Zealand, the New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers, and Parliament's justice and electoral committee.

The working party was expected to release a report recommending options for a ''significant trial'' by the middle of this year, her report said.

It was not known how many councils could participate in any trial that took place, but there could be opportunities to trial the new approach, such as in a by-election or referendum, before 2016, the report said.

 

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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