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ACT Complaint against Chief Electoral Officer

Hon Richard Prebble CBE
Leader ACT New Zealand
Parliament Buildings
Wellington

29 November 1999

Michael Wintringham
Commissioner
State Services Commission
P O Box 329
Wellington

Dear Mr Wintringham

Complaint against Chief Electoral Officer

The ACT Parliamentary office has received communication from a voter who lost his democratic right to vote because of inaccurate information given out by the Chief Electoral Officer Phil Whelan.

The Chief Electoral Officer wrote to New Zealanders living overseas informing them that that they could vote by e-mail until 4 pm on the Friday prior to election day.

When voters attempted to do this they learned that this advice was nonsense.

Voters have never been able to vote by e-mail and Parliament has certainly never approved e-mail as a method of voting.

The voter who contacted us says when he was informed of this error it was too late to vote by the correct procedure. We understand that 18,000 voters received this misinformation.

The ACT party has clearly been disadvantaged by this advice. In every website poll ACT is always the overwhelming winner. A disproportionately high number of ACT voters are on the web and were attracted to the idea of voting by e-mail. So Mr Whelan's advice did not discriminate against parties evenly.

Reviewing the election results through the MMP St Lague formula shows that if ACT had received only another 1,360 votes at the expense of other parties who are represented in Parliament, ACT would have another MP. It is therefore clear that the Chief Electoral Officer's misdirection has more than likely affected the composition of Parliament.

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I can think of few more serious charges to make against a civil servant than that their actions may have deprived New Zealanders of their right to vote, and affected the makeup of Parliament.

This letter is to ask you under the State Services Act to review this action and to see whether disciplinary procedures against the Chief Electoral Officer are warranted.

For the Chief Electoral Officer to inform voters that they can vote by e-mail appears to me to be not just negligent but grossly negligent.

And if you are going to look at his performance, you should also look at the extreme length of time it took to count the votes. Mr Whelan has been making public statements that this year's election would proceed faster than the last, but it appears to have taken longer.

This shakes the public's confidence in the system and I believe the State Services Commission should also look to see whether this is the standard we expect.

I don't believe this matter should simply be referred to a select committee. This is an issue of whether the civil service is providing the service that the public has the right to expect.

Yours sincerely

Hon Richard Prebble CBE
LEADER, ACT NEW ZEALAND
MP, WELLINGTON CENTRAL


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