Local Election at Risk of Voter Discrimination
For immediate release
June 26, 2019
HASTINGS Mayoral candidate – Damon Harvey
Hastings mayoral candidate Damon Harvey says he fears the upcoming local election process could be at risk if Flaxmere voters are discriminated against because of a severe lack of places to post their ballot papers.
Based on information Harvey’s campaign team had so far been able to access from speaking to NZ Post’s helpdesk and via NZ Post and DLX locator websites, the Flaxmere’s post box to population numbers ratio showed the community was severely lacking places to vote.
Flaxmere has just one post box to every 3673 residents, Hastings is one for every 1125 residents and Havelock North is one to every 832. Most rural voters are one to one, with their ballot papers collected as part of the rural delivery service from their own letterbox. Smaller residential areas including Clive, Whakatu and Haumoana had one post box each.
“We’re basically shutting an entire community out of our democratic process by not giving them fair access to vote, when compared to others living in our district,” Harvey said.
“This could be termed voter suppression and it could compromise the entire election, we’re just weeks out from the campaign period and it must be sorted so voters can have full confidence in the election process,” Harvey said.
Harvey, a councillor for the Hastings Havelock North ward, is calling for urgent action to ensure the local election process, which is by postal ballot, is not disadvantaging any community over another from exercising their democratic right.
“Flaxmere has become a victim of modern times, where demand for New Zealand postal services have dramatically declined so post boxes have disappeared, but this doesn’t mean we can allow for discrimination in the voting process.
“We’re just months away from the local elections, it is alarming that this could be happening in our district. It’s totally unacceptable that we could have entire communties basically being shut out from the voting process because of where they live,” Harvey said.
Information available via the NZ Post and DLX websites showed just three post boxes, including two in the same location, are in Flaxmere which has a population of 11,020. Hastings has 32 post boxes and will have voting at the HDC chambers with 32,640 residents. Havelock North has 16 post boxes a population of 13,320.
Harvey has written to the electoral officers at HDC, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s and their chief executives raising his concerns and asking for a meeting.
“I am bringing this to their urgent attention asking if, given these numbers, do they have confidence in running a fair democratic process. And if not, what they will be doing about it.”
Harvey was aware that some improvements were being planned across the region to help increase voter turnout, but given the risk of discrimination against Flaxmere he believed specific extra measures will need to be taken.
“I believe it will require more ballot boxes in Flaxmere in secure and accessible public locations along with having special voting at the Flaxmere Community Centre,” Harvey said.