For our elected representatives, publishing their actions in an always-available media will provide for openness, transparency and ultimately, real accountability.
The local election results are in and so starts the analysis of why so many people did not vote in 2013.

For the Auckland Council, 35% of enrolled voters turned out to elect the mayor.  In the Waikato District, the mayoral vote figure was a pitiable 27%.

Why?

Is it a simple lack of interest by voters?  Or is it laziness to take the trouble to find out what the candidates stand for?

Is it that postal voting is so passé?

Or is it that the media, newspapers and radio, did not give local issues sufficient space or air time?

Perhaps it is that voters know an individual’s voice is simply not heard by the powers that control our lives, and so don’t bother to vote.

All these reasons and more, have been advanced by commentators.  Each is likely to be a reality for some voters.

Solutions aimed at any one of these matters are not going to solve the wider issue of voter indifference to the elections.

2013-electionsOne solution receiving much attention at the moment is eVoting.  That is, instead of printing the voting papers and posting them out to residents to be completed and returned by post, the voting forms are published and completed on the internet.

This approach will not suit everyone.  There are some who do not have internet access at home.  Others will resist eVoting given the huge controversies currently raging about on-line privacy.

These are issues that are easily resolved and given that on-line voting offers significant cost benefits to local and central government, eVoting will inevitably be implemented.

To me, the main issue with eVoting is that it does not give people a reason to vote.

Therefore eVoting, by itself, will not increase voter turnout.  People continuing to vote in isolation on issues and candidates that they are not familiar with, will change nothing.

If on-line voting is taken out of the eVoting context and put it in to an eDemocracy context, then perhaps a different outcome will be achieved.

eDemocracy is a participatory process on local issues between councils, politicians, and local residents, that is enabled by internet-based communications systems.

Many of the above reasons for voter indifference arise from a lack of engagement by local government and politicians, with local individuals and local communities.

The two definitive words here are engagement and local.

An internet-based eDemocracy system could provide the means for people to engage in local issues in ways that radio and newspaper media can never achieve.   Use of the internet provides for immediacy and inclusion, unrestricted by space or time limits.  And once on line, the published record remains for intuitive hindsights.

Imagine an online process that continuously reports politician’s attendance at meetings, their monetary receipts and expenses and their voting positions on issues.  Put this along side a process for residents to be polled for their preferred positions on local issues, and we start to see the makings of a workable eDemocratic system that engages individual voters.

For our elected representatives, publishing their actions in an always-available media will provide for openness, transparency and ultimately, real accountability.  It will give voters a basis for decision making at reelection time.

For communities, eVoting completed on computers located at libraries, community halls and local schools will bring opportunities for more community get-togethers.

For individuals, such a system would start to encourage involvement in more community issues and provide them a reason and informed basis on which to vote.