Local Government Online (LGOL) has commissioned a website, www.elections2010.co.nz, that gives space for local body candidates to put forward their views and engage with voters. As far as LGOL is aware this is the first time all local body elections for a nation have been brought together on one website, allowing public questioning of candidates online.
The site is designed and built by Wellington-based SilverStripe, known for its role in the US Democratic party website in 2008. It runs on open source software using SilverStripe’s own content management system and taking geospatial data from Auckland-based Ko-ordinates.
Voters who don’t know what ward they’re in can enter their street address, get the answer and be presented with a list of available candidates, with their declared positions. However, the apathy that characterises local body elections seems to be reflected on the site: when Computerworld scanned some of the listings two weeks before the voting deadline a discouraging number of candidates had not filed position statements or even entered a basic profile, and many questions languished on the site unanswered.
Local body elections have a lower profile than Parliamentary elections and perhaps for that reason attract a noticeably lower voter turnout. Inertia sets in when facing multiple candidates for local and regional councils and District Health Boards, say respondents to an informal Computerworld canvass of views. Political positions are less clear and publicity in general more muted.