E-voting may help participation, survey finds

Kyle Whitfield. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Kyle Whitfield. PHOTO: ODT FILES
As local government elections draw closer, a University of Otago study has found e-voting could have a positive effect on increasing voter turnout among young people.

Otago Business School doctor of business administration graduate Dr Kyle Whitfield surveyed 18 to 24-year-olds and 84.2% of participants said an app that listed candidate information and allowed e-voting directly, would not only increase the convenience of voting, but could increase youth voting numbers.

He said New Zealand’s low youth voter turnout numbers hindered a healthy democracy and needed to be resolved.

"Low voter turnout among 18 to 24-year-olds can undermine the political process.

"Lack of information, the feeling that local elections are second order elections, and the feeling that youth have no actual influence over the political process, ultimately produces these low turnouts."

Dr Whitfield questioned whether young people would be more encouraged to vote if e-voting was available, voting was compulsory, or if there was a reduction in the voting age.

He found e-voting appealed to young people and could increase their turnout. He also found youth were divided about compulsory voting, and were opposed to reducing the voting age to 16 because they felt it was too young.

Other research showed many youth felt they were not receiving enough information to make knowledgeable decisions and that more than 90% of the participants felt they should have been better educated on the importance of their civic rights.

Seventeen percent of the contributors mentioned they knew absolutely nothing about politics, voting or government operations.

Dr Whitfield hoped his findings would be adopted by those who could make changes in the New Zealand electoral system.

"We need youth to be motivated to participate in the various forms of democracy."

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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