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Rewards For Whistle-blowers On Electoral Booklet Botch-up

MEDIA RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Franks & Ogilvie Announce Rewards For Whistle-blowers On Electoral Booklet Botch-up

FRIDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2013

Wellington specialist public law firm Franks & Ogilvie will pay rewards and prizes for whistle-blowers to establish the scale of the local election booklet botch-up.  A client who wishes to remain anonymous will fund the prizes and rewards.

“The client is appalled by what he fears is an official cover-up” said Stephen Franks, a principal of the public law specialist firm. “Candidates and people helping them face prison for breaching even trivial electoral rules without proof that the breach would change a single vote. Across the country hundreds of elected positions may be determined by a few votes.”

In Auckland alone, at the last election a number of local board positions were decided on margins of less than 10 votes, and the margin for election to Council was as low as 253 votes.”

“In New Zealand rights of free electoral speech and advertising are severely restricted. We’ve taken away rights that are normal in most democracies. Billboards are confined to a few sites and the Police do not protect them from vandalism. So we’re driving candidates and parties to rely on official channels – most voters will have nothing more than the candidate booklet to inform them.”

“That happens in corrupt places like Russia, then candidates get mysteriously  ‘missed out’ of registers and ballot papers and so forth. New Zealanders are trusting. But the donor is worried that we are letting integrity slide away. Our local postal elections are now seriously vulnerable to fraud.”

“Our client is appalled that there has not been an immediate announcement of an independent inquiry. It should be held so we can know that the ‘mistakes’ are genuinely immaterial and innocuous. New Zealanders need to know how many candidates are affected, whether there is a sinister pattern to it, and the likely consequences. In particular, in the words of the section giving a right to a fresh election, we all need to know whether a mistake will “affect the result of the election”.

“In case there is a determined attempt at a cover-up, we may have to rely on citizen action now, to know. Officials are saying ‘nothing to see here’. But our client has reason to believe that there were tens of thousands of defective booklets found by emergency teams of temps. It is possible that many faulty booklets had already been dispatched.”

Legal importance

A judge deciding whether an irregularity has affected the result of the election will need to know:

1.      Approximately how many voters and booklets were affected?

2.      Which candidates were affected?

“We need to know this now,” says Mr Franks.  “In a month how many people will still have their booklets? How many will even know they were missing pages of names if they do not look and report now?”

The prizes

Delivery of booklets with relevant pages missing will earn $1500 for the person who delivers most before 5pm Monday 7 October, $600 for the next most, and $400 for the third most.  Please send to Franks & Ogilvie, PO Box 10388, Wellington.

The prizes will be paid only to collectors willing to give evidence if necessary, as to how they collected them.

Each booklet must be certified by the person who provides it to the collector, that it has not been mutilated or otherwise materially changed from the condition in which it was distributed, and that person must add their name and address where they received the booklet and contact email or phone number.

We’re also taking messages (info@franksogilvie.co.nz) about defective booklets.

Rewards for whistle-blowing

Rewards to compensate for time and trouble will be paid at our discretion to whistle-blowers. The client may recompense for information materially useful in knowing:

1.      whether there has been a cover-up;

2.      when the problem was first known;

3.      what steps were taken to remedy it;

4.      who knew or reported at high levels; and

5.      whether the official responses were proper in relation to the seriousness.

Please contact Stephen Franks (via info@franksogilvie.co.nz) or leave a message on 04 815 8036 if you have relevant information.  Use a pseudonym if you wish.  We will maintain confidentiality.  The information will matter more at this stage than who provides it.

Our decision on entitlement to a reward or prize is final.

ENDS

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