The rapidly-expanding US company election.com is setting up in New Zealand to offer Internet voting services to the public and private sectors.
The company is to open an office in Christchurch, the base of its New Zealand partner Accent Computer Services, which sells election software and services to local government clients.
Election.com, incorporated in February last year, has grown rapidly, in April opening European operations, from which it is also targeting the Middle East and Africa. It announced its move into Australia on Wednesday and will launch its New Zealand operation this morning.
The company's most compelling case study so far is the Arizona Democrat Party Primary in March. Registered voters were given the option of voting via the Internet, voting by mail or voting with either a paper ballot or an Internet kiosk at a polling station. The company mailed unique PIN numbers to the state's 850,000 registered Democrats.
Overall voter participation, at around 86,000, jumped nearly 700% over the 1996 primary, and by more than that in the state's Hispanic community. 41% of those who voted fdid so rom remote Internet sites and 75% of voters aged between 18 and 29 preferred Internet voting.
But there was a glitch. Like Inland Revenue's controversial IR-File system here, the new voting system was unexpectedly unavailable to Macintosh users.
Election.com's senior VP of sales, Bill Taylor, says the problem was that Microsoft did not release a Macintosh version of Internet Explorer able to support 128-bit encryption until only days before the vote. He says the company is now beyond that "bump in the road" and the company is now on the Apple developer council and working with Apple on a number of initiatives.
Although election.com looks and behaves in many ways like an e-commerce start-up - it uses the same technology and even has an affiliates scheme - Taylor says the company offers services that set it apart from e-commerce, such as voter registration and the ability for Americans away from home to request absentee ballots.
It offers a data mining feature to affiliates such as the women's Web site iVillage, but Taylor says registering voters have the ability to opt out of being emailed by affiliate sites, and their privacy is protected.
"We don't divulge information, nor do we apply any kind of cookie when someone's been to the site - we don't do any of that."
Steve Kilpatrick of Accent says his company has already pitched the product to a number of clients who are "scrambling over each other" for it.