2 Nov 2020

US ambassador to NZ confident there will be free, fair election in the states

10:19 am on 2 November 2020

The US ambassador to New Zealand is confident there will be a free and fair election in his home country this week, despite concerns that have been raised about the voting process.

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US ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown. Photo: RNZ/ Rebekah Parsons-King

Scott Brown has been the ambassador since before New Zealand's 2017 election, and he's hoping that violence seen at polling places after previous US elections does not occur this time around. At present, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is warning New Zealanders in the US to avoid protests and political rallies surrounding the election.

"There are precautions being made, as there has in every other election, whether it's a local election, a state election, and or a federal election," Brown said.

While he couldn't say who might be responsible, he said "there are people who are really passionate about their side and their views ... everyone has a thought and that's part of democracy".

If there were any attempts to intimidate voters at polling places, there were "mechanisms and protections in place for everybody at every polling place to make sure that doesn't happen", he said.

As for the number of people early voting, he highlighted the wide variation in voting laws between states.

"We have 340 million people, 50 states, and each state has different voting laws. So some states have allowed for what's called early voting where you can go in person ... others allowed in for mail-in ballots like I did - I requested a mail in ballot ... every state is different."

That variation could cause irregularities, he said.

Although there have been issues with those differing voting laws, he did not think they would impact the overall outcome of the election.

"But any time you have an irregularity or you are questioning the system and the way that people vote, you immediately need to fix it and make sure it doesn't happen again."

If the outcome on election night were not clear, Brown expected current US President Trump would do "the same thing that every other president did ... wait and follow the process".

Although Brown endorsed Donald Trump ahead of the 2016, he cannot do so this time around. The US' Hatch Act prevents him from "comment on any outcomes of the election and or who I supported".

Brown is returning to the US on 20 December to take up a new position at a law school.

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