Labour’s first foray into Open Government included an online system that allowed double voting.
After discussion through a wiki and at a live OpenLabour meeting conference earlier this year, ideas on open government were put up on a link from the project’s website open.labour.org.nz and voted on. Votes from a broad sample of the public on existing topics as well as continuing new suggestions were handled by a polling tool from US-based Ideascale.
This allows votes to be registered either for a suggestion (adding one to the total of votes) or specifically against it (subtracting one).
But when Computerworld first visited the polling site, it was configured in a way that allowed at least double voting. I was automatically assigned an alphanumeric identity code and experimentally voted on a few of the highest-polling topics (this was mostly to see how the system worked, but I did genuinely support or oppose the respective positions I voted on).
On a later visit a proper registered identity was requested. I used my Twitter user name (@stevebwriter) with its existing password and was presented with a blank voting form – it seems my IP address had not been tracked from the last time. Purely in the spirit of investigation, I registered another vote on one of the topics I had already voted on and the system let me.
On most future visits, I was asked for my ID before being allowed to vote and given a form that recorded the topics I had already voted on, but on one occasion I succeeded in getting the same alphanumeric code as the first time with only the votes I had registered under that identity.
Ideascale support technician Tushar Adole acknowledges in an email that because the settings on the Open Labour NZ forum allowed anonymous comments, it was possible for someone to vote once anonymously and once under a declared name.
Despite this ‘bug’, results from the voting were discussed during a workshop on open government at this month’s Labour Party conference, which ICT spokesperson Clare Curran described as a “really good session”.
A report on Open Government has been produced and this will go through the Labour party’s policy council; then various elements of it will be taken up by Curran herself and other Labour MPs with appropriate portfolios, she says.
The idea with the greatest support at poll close (157 net votes) was an Official Information Act website to which all government documents would be released by default.
Other high raters include access to MPs’ spending records, declaration of candidates’ pecuniary interests before local body elections, publication or broadcast of all Parliamentary proceedings including those of Select Committees and public release of research done by ministries and their advice to their minister.
Among specifically ICT-related suggestions are that the current parliamentary record, Hansard, should be made available in a “standard open parsable format” to ease the job of quoting extracts on third-party websites (111 votes) and that ICT procurement processes should be modified to make it easier for government agencies to use open-source software (87 votes).
Least favoured at close was “make voting in General Elections compulsory” with a net minus 59 votes.