Pioneering election services in NZ
The inspiration to offer an independent, specialist electoral service in New Zealand was formed when director Dale Ofsoske was working as the internal electoral officer for Auckland City Council in the late 80’s. In 1994 he and his wife Judith started their own company, Independent Election Services Ltd., in order to be able to share their expertise in electoral processes both with other local authorities and with the newly created energy trusts.
The ability to contract an experienced electoral team who could take care of any element of their electoral requirements proved popular with these organizations, and within a few years Election Services was providing services to dozens of customers across the country.
Innovation and reputation
This increasing volume of work called for innovative thinking to ensure that we could manage elections and vote processing on a large scale without compromising our reputation for absolute care and attention to detail. Robust processes were developed and honed, with innovations such as electronic vote capture in 1997, launching our own election management software in 2001 and successfully introducing optical vote scanning to local government elections in 2004 (notable, as we were the only ones not to mess this up!)
The company gained a nation-wide reputation as the people to turn to for advice and assistance on compliance, legislation and best practice. Dale had become a well recognized and respected figure in the industry and had a key role as a founding member of the Electoral Working Party, who played a significant part in the development of the Local Electoral Act in 2001.
Our client base continued to grow and diversify, with discerning corporations, educational facilities and unions recognizing the benefits of using a professional and independent election specialist. While we had already been working from early on with some of the long-established Maori trust boards, an increasing number of iwi were reaching settlements with the Crown and required ratification polls and elections for their newly established governance entities.
Each of these customers has had unique requirements, and time and time again we have shown our flexibility in customizing our service to their specific needs.
In 2009 we launched our online voting platform, VoteOnline, after many months of careful design, development and testing. This new service was quickly taken on by a number of our regular customers who were eager to engage with their voters by the best and most up to date methods. As we continue to develop this platform and explore the full potential of online voting technology, we are excited to be playing a key role in the future of elections in New Zealand.
The big projects
That same year, the Government’s Chief Electoral Office undertook a national referendum on parental correction, but they required additional resources to undertake postal vote processing for over three million electors. They chose Election Services as their partners in this task, and we set up a processing centre in Wellington (and even shared an apartment in Petone for two months!) to successfully deliver results according to their requirements.
2010 saw a significant development in New Zealand’s local government scene in the formation of the new Auckland Council, with a population of well over a million people. The election of the inaugural Council was an exceptionally high-profile and high-stakes event, and required a service provider that could be relied on to deliver a seamless process from beginning to end. It was Election Services who were entrusted with this responsibility, and we lived up to our reputation throughout the entire project.
We are proud to have been the choice of election service partner for both of these events - the largest postal voting processes which have been undertaken in New Zealand.
Looking back and looking forward
In 21 years there have been many changes to the services that our customers have required, but the fundamental needs remain the same: accurate results on time, with underlying processes which are transparent, auditable and cost-effective. In this time Election Services has been consistently successful in introducing new innovations to better meet these needs and to reflect the changing ways in which our society interacts. Whatever the next twenty years may hold in New Zealand elections, we have proven that we can innovatively deliver results, and are committed to continuing to do so.