Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: The non-binary council

114 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last

  • tony j ricketts,

    Penny Webster, who works productively with the "Labour" mayor, is a former Act MP. (I did actually have to look that up and check it ...)

    off the point, but astonishing to non-experts like me, is that I just read an article (in the Guardian) by someone who had been employed to fact-check a review of a novel.

    wellington • Since Aug 2012 • 40 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I really need to pull finger on finishing the massive piece about online voting that I’m working on.

    We can’t have online for local elections, because people will then want to use it for general elections, and in general elections the stakes are high enough that online’s serious flaws will kick in.

    Bear in mind that an election system should be more or less beyond reproach, verifiable, inspectable, and trusted.

    Online suffers from these problems among others:
    - compared to a paper system, it can’t be validated by lay people, only by a few experts
    - this really comes into play when you want to have a secret ballot
    - it’s easy to cast suspicion on the outcome even with a sound system. Eg, a phishing attack here, a DDOS there, an Anonymous disruption for shits and giggles, and then we have to run it again.
    - it’s actually hard to validate even by experts – code needs to be inspected, it needs to be shown that the inspected code is what’s actually running, the hardware needs to be inspected, the chain of custody of data needs to be validated and even then, the fact you found no problems doesn’t mean no problems are there. This is somewhat true of paper, but online allows massive scale easily, whereas problems in a paper system are very difficult to do at scale and still be non-obvious.
    - past form on large public sector IT projects does not encourage
    - unlike, say, a payroll system, you can’t limp along in damage mode while the problems get fixed. There’s only one election every three years, so either you have to have another (with the same, now untrusted system? or with the paper one you just wound down?) or you have to wait and let the elected members suffer claims against their legitimacy.

    The other thing is, even if online were free of objections, where is the evidence that people don’t vote because it’s too hard?

    My understanding is that voting in Western democracies has declined in the last few decades because older voters who vote out of duty/habit are dying off, and younger ones believe less and less that their votes make a difference. Online voting isn’t going to fix that. We know that when people actually care, they move heaven and earth to exercise their franchise. Eg, in the last US presidential elections, African-American voters turned out in record numbers in Ohio to vote for Obama, despite the GOP’s best efforts at voter suppression. I am not persuaded that online voting solves engagement problems at all.

    ("Puddleglum" argues that NZ's local body woes stem from the 1989 local body reforms).

    On the weekend I was talking to an employee of a large national member-based organisation with low turnout in its official elections. They’ve tried moving to online. Hasn’t made a bit of difference. (Although, in fairness, it’s made the administration simpler).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3119 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    John Palino’s desperate “it’s okay everyone! Auckland’s hardly growing!” thing from last week has, inevitably, been undone by the release of the actual figures.

    Just over half of New Zealand’s population growth since the last census occurred in Auckland.

    Also, although Christchurch’s population fell, the population of the surrounding region has increased. That’ll be David Haywood moving to Dunsandel.

    More detail.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    past form on large public sector IT projects does not encourage

    This. I actually do believe that e-voting can be done properly, even at the national level in a country like NZ with a superb reputation for running elections well. However, it would need to be resourced like our national reputation was on the line, rather than just something as pedestrian as our democracy, and I have precisely zero faith that the current lot would provide anything like the necessary resources. The other lot would if the Greens have a Cabinet stake, but Labour don't exactly have an impeccable reputation for upholding the very highest principles of participatory democracy so it would need a very powerful Green caucus to make sure things were done properly.

    Verifiability by the laity is desirable, but it is sufficient for many people if external auditors can be appointed from outside the government to attest to the security of the system. If every major party plus the Law Commission and the Human Rights Commission were given a suitable sum of government money to contract their own auditor(s) from anywhere in the world, that would go a long way to providing assurance that the system had been done properly.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4090 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Just over half of New Zealand’s population growth since the last census occurred in Auckland.

    And most of it courtesy of sprawl, if one looks at where the growth occurred (the outer edges, for those unfamiliar with Auckland's geography). This city just cannot keep on growing outward. John "Build a second CBD in Manukau and starve the inner-city one" Palino's failure to get elected gives some hope, but the campaigning of the likes of Denise Krum has not done anything good for halting the sprawl.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4090 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Verifiability by the laity is desirable, but it is sufficient for many people if external auditors can be appointed from outside the government to attest to the security of the system.

    I don't think so, because online opens up the possibility of systematic and thorough-going problems. We have to think about not just the case of a few booths or one electorate race being suspect, but the entire election. If people grasped the potential scale they'd not be so complacent.

    Also "done properly" is a rabbit hole. Every layer is suspect from the firmware up. Much larger states than ours have problems securing crucial online systems from foreign interference.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3119 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Much larger states than ours have problems securing crucial online systems from foreign interference.

    Well, yes, and that'd be my worry. For one, there's all those stories of suspect voting machines in the US. Secondly, to take the bogeyman du jour as an example, China and the US have a history of putting pressure on others and the expertise to get deeply involved in election systems that happen to be online. What if Zhongnanhai or DC took an undue interest in the results of NZ's elections? I don't think I'm being excessively paranoid in asking that question...

    The system ain't broke, so why fix it? I suspect these calls for online voting are just another manifestation of the technology fetish that has been allowed to run out of control. Apparently to teach my students I need to use fancy high tech stuff. I do, but I find turning up to watch their basketball games does a lot more to get them engaged than simply putting stuff online. Same with elections - want to get the kids involved? Show them how they have a stake in the outcomes and that their involvement can actually make a difference.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2384 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    Stephen outlined many of the reasons why I'm also very wary of any online system, but he didn't strongly mention the anonymity/coercion factor. When the stakes are high and when voting is online, how does one ensure that voters can cast the vote they actually want to cast in an environment where it's guaranteed that nobody can ever verify whom they voted for, and thus coerce them?

    I can handle the idea of electronic voting machines as long as they also produce a voter-verified paper trail, in parallel, that can be used for recounts when there's doubt, but I'm not convinced there would be much benefit from such machines. I could possibly tolerate online voting in local elections if there's actually evidence if a benefit because many of the drawbacks are already problems with postal voting. Like Stephen, though, the slippery slope aspect towards national elections concerns me.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1104 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    When the stakes are high and when voting is online, how does one ensure that voters can cast the vote they actually want to cast in an environment where it’s guaranteed that nobody can ever verify whom they voted for, and thus coerce them?

    I don't see why online voting shouldn't verify to the voter what they voted for, and under appropriate conditions/authority, verify to an election official that a person voted and who they voted for.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6242 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Hannah, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Because if online voting (that is voting online from your home) can verify who the voter voted for to the voter it can also verify that to the person standing behind the voter telling them who to vote for.

    Which is much less of an issue (though not completely a non-issue) in a voting booth with officials and scrutineers and other voters around.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    How on earth can you verify that nobody else saw the user vote?

    That's the crux of it, and good enough reason not to ahead, even if all the other problems are solved.

    We get reasonable turnouts in general elections. If we made registration more automatic, we'd get better turnouts, especially in the 18-21 age group of first time voters who move often.

    Why not just align council elections with national ones and have another few pages on the ballot paper?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5539 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to izogi,

    it’s guaranteed that nobody can ever verify whom they voted for

    That's not guaranteed now. In fact, it's explicitly disallowed. Non-trivial to determine, and involves officials digging through the ballot boxes and comparing written records from voter roll books, but our voting is not completely, irrevocably anonymous.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4090 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Incidentally, I wonder if there has been any research done matching postal ballot papers from the same household and doing handwriting analysis to see what percentage of ballot papers get filled out by one person?

    Would this be legal, if done with due anonymity?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5539 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Also, for general elections at least, requires a court order within the period (1 year?) before the papers are destroyed.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5539 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    The system ain’t broke, so why fix it?

    Pretty much. We get preliminary results before midnight on polling day, final results within a fortnight, and it's bullet-proof in terms of simplicity and verifiability. We don't have arcane, error-prone systems like in the US, with private companies champing at the bit to install the latest whiz-bang piece of hardware which can corrupt an election in no time flat.
    Just because I think it can be done doesn't mean I think we should. Addressing the reasons for chronic voter disengagement should be a much, much higher priority, starting with getting through to the concrete-headed clowns who currently occupy the Beehive that their behaviour as both politicians and elected representatives does precisely nothing to encourage faith in the democratic process.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4090 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye, in reply to Ethan Tucker,

    'are you a current or former member of any political party, and if so, name them'

    I'd settle for "what are your policies?". Very rapidly discounted anyone that said little more than "I want to make Auckland a world-class city" in the little leaflet. Well, duh.

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 532 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Heather Gaye,

    The negation test for platitudes: if the inverse of a phrase is ridiculous, it's a platitude:

    "I want to make Auckland a world-class city" => "I want to make Auckland an unregarded backwater"
    "I want to make the neigbourhood safer and more pleasant" => "I want to make the neighbourhood unpleasant and dangerous"

    etc

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5539 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    The negation test for platitudes: if the inverse of a phrase is ridiculous, it’s a platitude:

    "The present National government are unethical and incompetent."
    Is that the kind of thing you mean? ;)

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4090 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    There was one candidate campaigning against the unitary plan, stating that Auckland should be restricting population growth. Unregarded backwater is the obvious solution. (To be fair, I do agree with his policy to restrict overseas investment in NZ residential property)

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 532 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    How on earth can you verify that nobody else saw the user vote?

    I'm not sure how you can verify that at present. You also can't verify that one person hasn't voted multiple times.

    Online voting would allow us to prevent the more trivial attempts at voter fraud. There's a lot of voting papers that would be sitting in letterboxes that you could grab and some people would never care. In electronic voting you could post out the login details, but require the person to enter their date of birth or something else not posted to add an additional layer of security.

    Also online voting could prevent a lot of the invalid votes or badly completed votes (skipping a number or doubling up in STV). I ranked 37 city council candidates a few weeks ago, starting at both ends and when I double-checked them after finishing found I'd double numbered once and missed a number which I had to fix. Ranking candidates could be done online by literally dragging their names into an order and make those sorts of mistakes impossible.

    And errors in a postal vote are done and affect every voter. Errors in an online vote only last until you find it and fix it.

    I'd quite happily vote three years from now by receiving my postal ballot, but having included with it an online vote option. If I send in both the one that reaches them first counts.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6242 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I'm talking about online voting vs ballot box voting.

    In a polling place, it's illegal to watch somebody vote and the officials are there to stop this from happening.

    That's the gold standard. We should be moving from postal voting to in person voting, not from postal to online. And we certainly shouldn't consider online or postal voting as an acceptable means of conducting parliamentary elections (except, as now, when a voter is genuinely unable to vote in person).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5539 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I don’t see why online voting shouldn’t verify to the voter what they voted for, and under appropriate conditions/authority, verify to an election official that a person voted and who they voted for.

    I'll grant that it's not a complete anonymity guarantee with existing votes, as Matthew pointed out. The issue I'm getting at is more the mere existence of a reasonably accessible list which matches votes to voters that might some-day get out, or any system which makes it possible to take away some kind of receipt, or otherwise doesn't guarantee that every voter will have sufficient privacy when they cast their vote.

    With online voting, and postal voting for that matter, it could be a family violence issue with a partner standing over the shoulder demanding a vote be cast the "right" way. Maybe the one and only household PC simply isn't in a private area, and it's impossible to vote without feeling like being judged. It could be a fitting-in peer pressure thing, sitting with union mates at the pub when someone pulls out a laptop in full view and declares "it's time for us to all vote for Candidate X".

    If people believe there's any chance that their vote might be found out, whether it's by a a pub owner informally offering free drinks for everyone who turns up with the "right" receipt, or by a hacker or by an incompetent government department leaking an electronic list of votes to voters, or simply having other people milling around when they cast it, it'll influence who some people choose to vote for lest their revealed political preferences become a problem amongst partners, peers, bossess, unions, work-mates, friends and family, or anyone.

    I'm resigned that we already use postal voting for local elections, and it's not going away easily. An online variant might improve certain aspects, and make others worse, but I don't think either is as good (at least in terms of electoral integrity) as a simple ballot box system. Ballot boxes aren't perfect either, but we've demonstrated over and over again that we can use them reliably. The whole process from start to finish is basic enough to understand that virtually everyone can follow how they work, including the countless scrutineers from various affiliations who are there to ensure it's done properly.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1104 posts Report Reply

  • Ethan Tucker, in reply to Russell Brown,

    ...depending on where you voted, there were whole slates of "Independent" candidates offering similar blandishments. But it seems that prior party allegiances aren't a great predictor in Auckland local body politics.

    Yes, I agree. While some candidates may have left a considerable trail of political activism on the internet, most voters aren't inclined to spend hours hunting around for obscure evidence. I'm not saying that political party membership is something to be ashamed of - far from it. Political parties are a great shorthand that make decision-making easier for voters, and I think that voluntary disclosure would be beneficial, particularly when the forms of media that most people rely on (TV, major newspapers) don't delve too deeply into the stated policy platforms of the candidates.

    That's also a good point about party loyalties not being a perfect predictor. It's encouraging that once in office councillors can work across the spectrum - Parliamentarians do it too, but generally it's behind the scenes in select committees, where it's not reported. I agree with another poster who mentioned the Generation Zero survey - that's another good example of how a policy-based initiative can tease out a more meaningful platform amongst the tendency to generalise.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2008 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    I’m not saying that political party membership is something to be ashamed of – far from it.

    The problem is not this - it is candidates who know that if people knew what they really stood for they wouldn't have a shit show of getting elected, so they hide behind bland or innocuous sounding fronts.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2138 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Also online voting could prevent a lot of the invalid votes or badly completed votes (skipping a number or doubling up in STV). I ranked 37 city council candidates a few weeks ago, starting at both ends and when I double-checked them after finishing found I'd double numbered once and missed a number which I had to fix. Ranking candidates could be done online by literally dragging their names into an order and make those sorts of mistakes impossible.

    Yes! this would be great - I too had to rank the same 37 - Dunedin had one of the lowest turnouts this time around, largely I think because while STV voting is a better, fairer way of voting than FPP it's actually hard to do - reliably ranking 37 people in a physical voting booth is arguably impossible, and is going to require a lot more booths than say a national election.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2556 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.