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Govt bill threatens electoral system

Opinion Piece

Why does New Zealand want to step away from the electoral norm? What is the point in having a law that requires people to enrol if this Electoral Amendment Bill allows you to enrol and vote at the same time?

If you can enrol and vote at the same time, why would any New Zealander bother to enrol in advance? Allowing same-day enrolment and voting, over time, removes any incentive for people to actually enrol and ensure that our overall electoral system works, which is a legitimate concern.

There is a requirement in the law that candidates are known at least 20 working days before the election. Voters have a right to know who the candidates are so they can check out their policies, what they have to say, and ensure they are reputable people.

If voters have the right to know who the candidates are, shouldn't candidates have the right to know who the enrolled voters are, so they can communicate their policies and ideas with them?

The Electoral Commission recommended against same-day enrolment for the 2020 election, rightly expressing concern that if we allow same-day enrolment, why would we bother having people enrol at all.

Despite this Labour is advancing the measures, going against the advice of the electoral committee, because they think they can obtain some small electoral advantage by allowing same-day voting and enrolment.

Introducing same-day voting and enrolment delays the counting of votes, which consequently delays the return of the writ for the election results by 10 days. That is 10 days less in which we have a Government.

The whole country sits on edge from election night to when the final election results are announced. Extending that by 10 days is substantial. Election uncertainty already consumes too great a portion of the electoral cycle; 3.4 million New Zealanders should not have to wait another 10 days for the election result because 19,000 people couldn't be bothered to get themselves on the roll.

While some people may believe an extra 10 days is insignificant, the Government spends $1.3 billion per week. That's another week-and-a-half of which we wouldn't have an elected Government giving clear directions to the officials and all that Government is responsible for.

New Zealand already has a very short electoral period of three years; same-day enrolment and voting will shorten it further. We not only have the election and the results of the final special votes being counted, we can also have periods of up to 100 days over which negotiations occur to be able to form a Government.

The Government seems more concerned with re-election than getting on and governing our country.