Electronic polling booths planned

We may not be able to vote electronically in the next general election, but it's something the Chief Electoral Office is seriously looking into, according to chief electoral officer Phil Whelan. Whelan says New Zealand is often considered a leader in such areas and his office is investigating the options.

We may not be able to vote electronically in the next general election, but it's something the Chief Electoral Office is seriously looking into, according to chief electoral officer Phil Whelan.

"There's a lot of technology around but no other jurisdiction in the world has put its toe in the water yet."

Whelan says New Zealand is often considered a leader in such areas and his office is investigating the options.

"It certainly won't be ready for the next election, but we will continue to investigate and see where we are, possibly for a future by-election."

Currently, returning officers are not allowed to count votes until after voting has finished on polling day. An amendment to local-body election legislation is before a select committee at the moment and should be presented in parliament by August 10. It would allow counting of postal votes to begin before the end of the official voting period.

Dale Ofsoske, returning officer for the Auckland City Council, would like to see technology playing a larger part in voting procedures in the near future. He believes there is a perception among voters that the vote-counting system is too slow in today's world.

"People see the Lotto winners being announced each week within minutes of the draw being made, yet polling results can take several hours to process." He would like to see some form of electronic kiosk, perhaps with a touch screen, to speed up the process.

"You still go along to your polling place but in the booth you have a touch screen and you might have a PIN or a swipe card to confirm your identity." Voters who are away from their home electorate on polling day would be able to vote in the general pool rather than registering a special vote and the whole issue of vote counting could be made more efficient and cost-effective.

"Of course, there are issues of privacy and security which have to be addressed first."

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