Electoral Commission fronts up after early voting errors

6:11 pm on 7 October 2020

The Electoral Commission has come under fire after a string of mistakes in the first week of advance voting.

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Photo: 123RF

In one electorate, the white circle where voters tick for their preferred party was missing and at an Auckland polling station staff couldn't find the Māori roll.

Early voting numbers skyrocketed compared with previous years.

More than 370,000 people cast their ballot in the first four days of advance voting - nearly 150,000 more than the same period at the last election.

But in catering for the streams of people wanting to have their say ahead of election day, mistakes have been made.

Wellington barrister Graeme Edgeler thought the most serious of those, was the missing tick box next to the Vision New Zealand party, but he said it was unlikely to make an impact.

"It's the type of thing that if this was Election Day, and this has suddenly happened then it could be a problem.

"It's in fact probably useful it's happened during the advanced vote period because it will be able to be picked up well before the vast majority of people vote, so that hopefully, it won't make enough of a difference to make a difference."

Edgeler said as long as the voter had made their intention known, their vote for Vision NZ would be counted, despite the missing tick box.

Hannah Tamaki

Vision NZ leader Hannah Tamaki. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

But that did not offer any consolation to the party leader Hannah Tamaki who said it was sabotage.

"Don't they say every vote counts?

"What if I'm 1000 votes down party vote to get to a threshold?

"Where will we know the variances? How will we know that I could not have got those?

"So to me, every vote counts. Every opportunity for a person to vote is important to them. It's their democratic right," Tamaki said.

The next in a series of mistakes was anti-euthanasia pamphlets getting into Electoral Commission voting packs.

Viraj Thompson from Wellington said he was shocked and offended to find the VoteSafe leaflet inside his official envelope.

"I remember feeling quite shocked about it.

"I feel that you know, somebody who might have had one of these and who had personally felt, you know, some deeper sensitivity to the issue than me would have felt pretty outraged.

"I mean, I did feel rather strange about seeing it in there," he said.

It is still unclear how that mistake happened or how widespread the problem is.

There have also been reports of ballot papers running out, and no Māori rolls at some booths.

RNZ has also been notified of instances of a kaumātua being turned away for confusion around his address and a young person was refused voting because she was not enrolled.

But Electoral Commission voting services manager Graeme Astle said they were isolated incidents.

"No voter should be turned away.

"Anyone who is not on the roll is able to fill in an enrollment form at the voting place, and then complete the vote in a normal manner.

"So we shouldn't turn anybody away," Astel said.

Edgeler also wanted to remind people that in New Zealand you do not need ID or proof of address to vote.

"Particularly if people are watching the news or something like that, they're seeing news stories about various states in the United States, they might have an impression that that's what happens in New Zealand.

"It's not what happens in New Zealand - you don't need proof of address, you don't need ID," he said.

Edgeler said the Electoral Commission did lots of work to prove people were eligible to vote, and all voters had to do was show up.

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