Auckland students in first internet election

New Zealand's first internet election is taking place at the Auckland University of Technology.

New Zealand's first internet election is taking place at the Auckland University of Technology.

Some 15,000 students are voting for their president, along with a range of other campus officials.

The election is being ran by US-based election.com, which now has operations in New Zealand.

Voting began on Monday and closes at 4pm on Friday, with results within minutes.

The university hopes the new technology will boost the turnout in the ballot, which had slumped below 2000.

Hundreds of PCs across campus can be used to vote, along with a 'mobile polling station', more commonly known as a laptop. There is no traditional ballot box and paper voting.

Election.com New Zealand CEO Steve Kilpatrick says internet voting uses a browser with secure encryption connected to a database in New York.

His company has an electoral roll and when students dial in to vote, their details are checked before they proceed.

Once authenticated, the students vote and can then confirm or change their vote. The encryption also stops people breaking into the system and working out who voted for whom, he says.

Kilpatrick says online voting is better than the traditional method as it allows late changes to the ballot and is more convenient.

Now, he hopes it will take off in a big way in New Zealand.

Kilpatrick's former company, Accent Computer Services of Christchurch ran local body elections and handled 708,000 votes in 1998. Then, in July, it was taken over by US-based election.com.

Kilpatrick says internet voting technology is well proven overseas, and held its first legally binding election in March for the Democratic Party in Arizona.

Overseas, election.com handles elections for credit unions, trade unions, and private companies as well as public sector elections.

Election.com are about to begin a sales drive, hoping to anchor similar clients by the year end.

"We are ready to do elections right now,' he says.

However, for central and local government elections to take place over the net, there would have to be a change in the law.

For private organisations, all they have to do is change their constitution.

But Kilpatrick is hopeful for the 2002 general election.

"We would like to be in a position to have some internet component, but that depends on the law at the time," he says.

The last general election saw delays in counting the ballot papers, forcing the government to look at fresh alternatives.

Kilpatrick says internet voting will help speed up the process and is more flexible.

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