5 Dec 2019

Minister proposes electoral law changes after Whakatāne coin toss incident

7:21 am on 5 December 2019

The government is looking to change electoral laws so tied local body elections won't be resolved by a coin toss in the first instance.

Hinerangi Goodman has dropped her fight for the Murupara-Galatea seat this election but has promised to return in three years' time.

Hinerangi Goodman. Photo: Charlotte Jones/LDR

In October's elections, Whakatāne councillor Hinerangi Goodman was sworn in after clinching a game of chance, only to lose her seat by one vote in a recount.

Ms Goodman and supporters initially said they would fight the result in court but weeks later decide against it.

Whakatāne District Council representatives met with Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to discuss what happened and explained the "profound hurt caused to the two candidates" and said the election laws did not adequately address Te Ao Māori requirements.

Ms Mahuta said the confusion put great strain on the relationship between the council and community.

"In my view the swearing in of a newly-elected member should, as far as possible, be the final step in the election process, and it should occur only after any disputes about electoral outcomes have been resolved."

She proposed that in the case of a tie there should be an automatic recount, and a coin toss should only occur if the recount confirmed the dead heat.

"I will also consider whether an automatic recount should be triggered for elections where the winning margin is very small," Ms Mahuta said.

She said the changes would be considered as part of the larger inquiry into the 2017 general election and the 2016 local elections.

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