An Australian IT expert says New Zealand would be crazy to adopt online voting for local government elections and would be opening itself up to widespread electoral fraud. Nine councils including Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga want to use it at next year’s elections, despite there being few examples overseas of where it is being used successfully or safely. Online voting was first used at government elections in Estonia in 2005. Its take up by the rest of the world since then has been limited at best, in large part due to vulnerabilities in its systems that allowed hackers to cast fake votes and rig elections. Australian IT expert Vanessa Teague alerted authorities to faults in the 2015 New South Wales state elections, where a quarter of a million voted online. There were plenty of hackers worldwide happy to take money from a vested interest looking to manipulate an election in their favour, she said.
“Tilting… even a local council [election] in a relatively big city like Christchurch or Auckland might make all the difference in planning decisions worth tens of millions of dollars. So there’s a huge incentive for electoral manipulation, even at what we think of as the low and unimportant levels of government.”
The push from the nine New Zealand councils to move online comes despite a 2016 decision to scrap a trial of the system due to security fears.
Dr Teague said the world had not become a safer place since then. “If anything, what we’ve seen is a more concrete set of examples of undemocratic countries deliberately interfering in democratic elections, in particular the example of Russian interference in the United States and also in the French presidential elections.”