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Post Election What's Going Wong

Post Election What's Going Wong

Welcome to the first issue of What's Going wONg following the 2005 election!

While the special votes are being counted and we await the final result of the election, I would like to thank those who exercised their right to vote two weeks ago.

I would like to especially thank voters in Auckland Central for increasing National's party and constituent votes. This result has signalled that New Zealanders believe in rewarding hard work, economic prosperity, safety for themselves and their families, excellence in education, and ensuring that welfare is only a safety net - not a drift net.

Election irregularities tarnish the democratic process

This year's election can only be described as a rollercoaster ride that's yet to end, with the final result depending on the tally of 210,000 special votes. With only one seat between National and Labour the 'specials' will be pivotal in determining the make up of the next Parliament.

Ensuring the enrolment, voting and counting processes are robust has never been more crucial. Leading up to election day, and in the days since, some incidents have come to light that suggest there are flaws and lapses in these processes that were exploited and cast doubt on the integrity of voting. It is time that these reports were taken seriously, properly investigated and steps taken to rectify them.

A report on a Chinese website has stated that it was easy for international students to enrol and vote, despite not being Permanent Residents or New Zealand Citizens. The report's writer said that a foreign student received an enrolment form in the post, filled it out, was enrolled and then voted. This doesn't appear to be an isolated incident as others have reported similar stories, and callers to Chinese talk back radio have claimed that people holding work permits were also able to enrol.

The Electoral Enrolment Centre should be making efforts to encourage these individuals to come forward to help identify how this happened and to seek solutions. Simply threatening to sue individuals will stop these incidents being reported and stop people coming forward. This will only perpetuate the problem

A formal complaint has also been lodged with the New Lynn Returning Officer about advance voting. In the week leading up to the election my office received a complaint that an entire class of senior Chinese residents, who were learning English at a language school, were taken during class time to cast advance votes. Allegedly, the group was only told they were going to vote at the beginning of their scheduled class, and directed to say they were unable to vote on Saturday if they were asked why. Similar arrangements were also made for other classes at the school.

The Returning Officer has confirmed that groups of around 30 senior Chinese residents had cast advance votes that caused additional pressure for them. I was disappointed that David Henry, the Chief Electoral Officer, didn't agree to check if this was a wide spread practice when I brought the problem to his attention.

Advance voting is only available for individuals who are unable to vote on Election Day. I am waiting for the outcome of the investigation into this incident to reveal the motive behind this practice.

It isn't just the way that voting is done that is in question - it's also the way the votes are counted.

An e-mail to my office from a concerned person has detailed the problems encountered by a woman who was involved in vote counting in Auckland. Allegedly, ballot boxes weren't sealed when she arrived and that one of her fellow counters 'found' some votes in her briefcase that she brought with her, while another counter also insisted on counting votes for a specific party.

An overseas voter has also written to me venting their frustration at the trouble they had in spending 7 days trying to download their voting papers off the Internet with no success.

A spokesperson for the Electoral Enrolment Centre has publicly said that there is no need for an inquiry into the system because there have been only a few cases reported from a total of 2.85 million registered voters, however these reports collectively warrant serious attention and investigation to ensure that our election system remains reliable and accurate.


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