Consultation – Framework for online voting trials at local authority elections

Submissions CLOSED on Friday 9 November 2018.

Feedback was sought on an exposure draft of the Local Electoral (Online Voting Trial) Amendment Regulations 2019 for the framework for online voting trials (PDF, 388KB)

Feedback is now being considered. A summary of the submissions be may published at a later date.


A number of local authorities are investigating trialling an online voting option at the 2019 local elections for all or some of their electors.

The Department of Internal Affairs is working on a proposed regulatory framework to support an online voting trial. The proposed framework prescribes the procedures, safeguards and outcomes that the operation of a voting method must achieve.

The responsibilities for complying with the regulatory framework and ensuring the integrity and security of elections will sit with the relevant local authority and its electoral officer. This is the same approach used for postal voting in local elections.

The regulatory framework will allow specified local authorities to trial online voting for the 2019 triennial elections. Additionally, online voting trials will be allowed by the specified local authorities for by-elections and polls up until, but not including, the 2022 triennial elections.

Under the proposed regulations, electors will be able to vote online as an alternative to casting a postal ballot. Whether they choose to vote online will be entirely up to them. Postal ballots will also be distributed during the trial, so electors will have the option of cast their vote online or through the post.

Key elements of the proposed regulatory framework include:

  • that all participating local authorities first receive a published report from their Chief Executive (CE) advising that the CE is satisfied that the online voting system achieves a number of desired outcomes (e.g. it is secret, accurate, available and reliable, auditable, verifiable, and secure);
  • that the CE’s report be supported by an independent audit of the preferred voting system to provide assurance that the trial meets the key outcomes;
  • a two-stage authentication requirement (including providing a unique access code to individuals with their voting instructions), and a secondary method - the draft regulations present three optionsfor this;
  • that participating electoral officers must, at the request of a voter, be able to allow the voter to inspect how their vote has been recorded;
  • that local authorities must have a back-up plan in the event of unforeseen challenges; and
  • that an evaluation of the trial must be undertaken by participating local authorities.

Each local authority is following its own decision-making process in deciding whether or not to participate in the trial. Voters interested in their own local authority’s decision to take part in the trial should contact their local authority for more information.

The Department is working on wider legislative changes to enable an online voting trial

The Local Electoral (Online Voting Trial) Amendment Regulations 2019 fit in with wider changes to enable online voting trials where local authorities can demonstrate they can meet required outcomes outlined above. The Local Electoral Matters Bill proposes amendments to the Local Electoral Act 2001 which allow these Regulations to be made in the form proposed. The public was provided an opportunity to comment on the Bill during the Select Committee process, and its report is due by 9 November 2018. The Bill is available on the New Zealand Parliament website at:

As the focus of this consultation was on improving the framework for online voting trials, we sought feedback on the regulations and not the broader proposal to conduct online voting trials - feedback on:

  • the regulations as a whole;
  • specific parts of the regulations; and
  • any issues important to maintaining the integrity of local authority elections through any online voting trials that are not addressed within the regulations.

These are draft exposure regulations which propose amendments to the Local Electoral Regulations 2001 to provide a framework of a trial of online voting in the 2019 local elections. In order to best provide feedback, it is recommended that they be read in conjunction with the Local Electoral Regulations 2001 and the Local Electoral Act 2001.

A summary about the relationship of the draft Local Electoral (Online Voting Trial) Amendment Regulations 2019 to the Local Electoral Regulations 2001 and the Local Electoral Act 2001 is provided here: Relationship of draft Local Electoral (Online Voting Trial) Amendment Regulations 2018 to Local Electoral Regulations 2001 and Local Electoral Act 2001 (PDF, 144KB)

The feedback form categorised the different aspects of the draft regulations into the following five subject areas:

  • Requirements needed for local authorities to use online voting (135C - 135G, 135L, 135S) - There are several requirements that a local authority will need to meet before it can use the online voting regulations. These requirements include a report from the Chief Executive and an independent audit of the online voting system to ensure it is secret, accurate, available and reliable, auditable, verifiable, secure and accessible.  There are also obligations placed on the electoral officer, including:
    • providing information to electors about online voting;
    • the system conforms with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1; and
    • completing an evaluation report of the online voting trial.
  • The three options for authentication (A1 – C2) - This section presents three options [ A, B (which includes sub-options), and C ] for authenticating electors who wish to use the online voting system. We are interested in feedback on submitters’ preferred option as it is intended that the final regulations will provide only one of these options.
  • Close of voting period (135I – 135K) – This theme covers the timing for the close of online voting, verification of electors’ votes, and the scrutiny of the roll during the voting period.
  • Security requirements and the availability of the online system (135M – 135R) - There are certain security regulations that local authorities and electoral officers must abide by for an online voting system to be used. This includes ensuring a back-up arrangement exists that would enable the online voting system to continue to operate if there is a failure or breach with the primary system. These regulations do not outline specific security standards but outlines the obligations on an electoral officer, and how the data and related electoral records must be handled during and after the voting period.
  • Other Regulations (Clauses 1- 8, 135A – 135B, 135H, Schedule 2) - Other feedback is for the other regulations that do not fit in the above categories. This sort of feedback will include things like wording and definitions included in the regulations.

Feedback is now being considered. A summary of the submissions be may published at a later date.

These regulations rely on the Local Electoral Matters Bill being enacted first. Assuming that the Bill is enacted by Parliament, we are aiming to promulgate the final version of these regulations in March 2019. This is to support any online voting trials later that year.