30 Sep 2022

Local body elections: Undelivered voting papers will deter some - official

8:42 am on 30 September 2022
Postal voting in local body elections.

Everyone should have received their voting papers more than a week ago, an official says. Photo: RNZ / Eveline Harvey

A North Island electoral official says they're getting dozens of queries every day from people who still haven't got their voting papers for the local elections.

She said people were finding the system confusing and some will be put off from voting.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta revealed yesterday she also hadn't received her papers and said there may be a review of how the elections are run.

The official, who RNZ has agreed not to identify, said the number of people complaining they haven't got their voting pack was growing as Tuesday's deadline for posting ballots got closer.

She was getting about 40 queries a day.

"So some of them they didn't get their papers, they had not updated their details, so the responsibility for that's with them, but I'd say maybe a third of people were convinced that they'd updated their details," she said.

"Then there were some people whose details were correct in the system but no envelope had ever landed in their letterbox."

The official said everyone should have received their voting papers by Wednesday last week.

"We've had quite a few people coming in the door saying 'My husband got it, we live together, we've lived in this house for a while, but I didn't get papers' and so they've had to come in specially to see us, and that's an effort that not everyone's going to make."

She worried that the confusion would mean even fewer people voting and said the system should be run nationally by the Electoral Commission, just as it was for the general elections.

Currently most councils hired one of two private companies to manage their elections.

Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai told RNZ it was time to change the system because it clearly wasn't working.

The postal voting system was outdated and should be made electronic, as it was easier, she said.

"Actually posting a letter is something that we seldom do. It's not a daily activity, checking your phone is a daily activity. And I do think that's an option that we really should seriously consider as electronic voting."

Mai said the different methods of voting in central and local government elections also confused voters and the government should consider having an election day for local authority voting, rather than the present system.

"In central government elections the voter turnout is way higher, because we have the polling booths. And it's an event - it's on a Saturday, you know that that Election Day is coming up. We all need to seriously consider how we can improve it, because democracy is such a vital part of what we do," she said.

Fining people who didn't voting was another option worth considering, she said.

The Postal Workers Union also wants change.

Union president John Maynard said NZ Post did not have enough staff to deal with business as usual, let alone a postal election.

The union had been warning about short staffing and a lack of post boxes since 2016.

"A key thing is to have adequate staffing for postie branches and then of course focusing on getting those important things out like the postal envelopes and having places for people to return the ballot."

NZ Post said it had delivered 3.5 million voter packs and was checking all its depots for any stray envelopes.

But that wouldn't help people like Terry in Waikanae - he said he had not received his voting papers because he didn't live at a recognised postal address.

"I'll probably go down to the Kāpiti Coast District Council on Saturday morning and see whether they're open and see if I can vote there."

Local Government chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene said it was not too late for those who hadn't got their voting papers.

"You can check whether you're enrolled by going online at the Electoral Commission, see if you're enrolled, and then get in touch with your council and cast a special vote," she said.

"We really encourage people to do that this weekend as an absolute priority."

Voting closes at midday on 8 October.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs