Introducing online voting – also known as eVoting – could have a positive effect on voter turnout among young people in New Zealand local elections, a University of Otago study suggests.
Study participants said an app that listed candidate information and allowed eVoting directly may not only increase the convenience of voting, but potentially increase youth voting numbers.
Dr Kyle Whitfield, a Doctor of Business Administration graduate of the Otago Business School, surveyed 18- to 24-year-olds and also used focus groups of young people in his research.
Although New Zealand’s low youth voter turn-out numbers in local elections aren’t unlike other countries, this issue does hinder having a healthy democracy and needs to be resolved, Dr Whitfield believes.
Low turnout can undermine political process
“Low voter turnout amongst 18 to 24-year-olds can undermine the political process,” he says.
“Lack of information, the feeling that local elections are ‘second order’ elections and the feeling that youths have no actual influence over the political process, ultimately produces these low turn-outs.”
For the study, Dr Whitfield investigated whether young people would be more encouraged to vote if eVoting was available, voting was compulsory, or if there was a reduction in the voting age.
He found eVoting appeals to young people and could increase their turnout; that youth felt divided about compulsory voting; and that they were opposed to reducing the voting age to 16 based on the belief that this age is too young.
Youth are not receiving sufficient information
Other research insights revealed youth felt they were not receiving enough information to make knowledgeable decisions; more than 90 percent of participants felt they should have been better educated on the importance of their civic rights; and 17 of the contributors mentioned they knew nothing about politics, voting or government operations.
Despite these concerns relating to local elections, New Zealand’s most recent national election – in late 2020 – showed a big increase in the number of young people turning out to vote.
Official turnout was 82.2%, the highest since 1999, and the final enrolment rate was 94.1%, the highest since 2008.
Speaking just after the election, Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said an age breakdown showed the biggest gains in turnout in the younger age groups. In the 18-24 category, for example, the number of voters rose by 43,293, which was an increase of almost 19 percent versus the previous election.