Local government officers are hoping for legislative changes to allow the use of new technology for next October’s local body elections — a move that could save ratepayers more than $2 million.
Electoral officers around the country recently evaluated a number of systems and are keen to investigate options including electronic votes, Internet voting and tele-voting, as well as the traditional pen-and-paper ballot.
“People can order their groceries or do bank exchanges using similar technology. Why shouldn’t they have the option of voting this way, too?” says Society of Local Government Managers (SOLGM) vice-president Warwick Bennett.
The right to use progressive processing of returned voting papers in conjunction with electronic scanning is also sought. Currently, the law requires that counting doesn’t begin till the end of the election period, at noon on a Saturday. Large numbers of people are required to open and count votes manually after the close-off.
“If the law allowed votes to be processed as they were received, a much smaller team would be required,” says Bennett.
“Progressive processing was successfully trialled in New Zealand with the nationwide superannuation referendum held earlier this year and we hope that a law change will enable it to be used in the local body elections next October.”
Bennett says an exceptionally full legislative calendar in 1998 means the chances of law changes in time for October’s elections are slim but with the support of Maurice Williamson, Minister for Local Government, SOLGM representatives are seeking the backing of local government spokespeople from the five parliamentary parties in an effort to get at least some changes through by then.