9 Oct 2016

Voting papers 'simply didn't arrive' in Horowhenua

11:14 am on 9 October 2016

More than 100 people have missed out on voting in Horowhenua thanks to a "shonky" election process the newly elected mayor and residents association says.

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Photo: RNZ

Horowhenua's newly elected mayor and a residents' group have described the local body election process as "shonky", saying more than a hundred people missed out on voting because they never received their papers.

Michael Feyen, who defeated sitting mayor Brendan Duffy, said he'd many people message him on Facebook with complaints about not receiving voting papers.

"I've lost count of how many people said they haven't got their voting papers and how I advised them to go about getting themselves either enrolled or change of address but for many they'd already done all that - the papers just simply didn't arrive."

"The whole election process needs to be changed. We should have a polling day with polling booths for people to cast their vote and have compulsory voting."

He said the postal service was not secure and a waste of money.

"The mail system is a failure and using polling booths is more meanginful than an online system.

"We used to have a much bigger turnout for polling day when there were booths. Those missing votes, they could have voted for me."

Horowhenua Residents and Ratepayers Association chairperson Christine Toms said many concerned residents had contacted her.

"People have phoned me and sent me emails, I had about 90 one night from very concerned people who said they haven't got their voting papers.

"And this has carried on throughout the three weeks of the election period, from when it first started until we're just about at the end now."

Horowhenua district councillor Ross Campbell said he took his concerns to Ms Toms after hearing from a lot of people about their difficulty voting.

"Another area on the east end of Shannon did not have any voting papers ever arrive.

It seems to be a lot more widespread than we ever realised.

"When that happened I decided I would try and find out because I was out visiting people and they didn't get their voting papers at all."

Peter Thompson, from Hokio Beach near Levin, said the process had not been democratic.

"There seems to be several issues with the voting process. The electoral office has been closed for some period of time due to the illness of the officer."

Mr Feyen said he was surprised at what he found out when he went to the electoral office in Levin after being told it was often closed.

"She [the electoral officer] told me that she'd been ill for five or six days... she said that she had been very ill and had no coverage and that the office was unattended.

"And she acknowledged it was at a very critical time when people are not getting their voting papers or whatever and there's absolutely nobody to go to because you go down the council and the council would say 'send them up there'.

A council spokesperson said in a statement it seemed odd that they were not aware of any reports of voting papers "not delivered"' in other areas of the district, just those claims by a few people supporting a certain election campaign.

Horowhenua District Council referred RNZ News to electionz.com, the private company that runs elections for many councils.

Electionz.com chief returning officer Warwick Lampp said he was too busy preparing for the close of voting yesterday to respond to questions put to him by RNZ and would be in a position to respond to them later next week.

The Electoral Commission said it would not be able to provide a comment regarding claims the Electoral Office was closed for long periods until Monday.

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