Ballot papers blunder cause for concern

April 21, 2017

Ballot papers blunder cause for concern

Voting papers not reaching people’s hands have become a huge concern for local boards in Auckland. Photo: Andrew Hallberg / Te Waha Nui

An investigation has been launched into reports of missing, late and undelivered ballot papers from last year’s local body election.

Two local boards: Waitematā and Māngere-Ōtāhuhu, are making formal inquiries as a result of complaints received.

Waitematā Local Board has launched an investigation after 350 voting papers went missing in the Grey Lynn and Arch Hill areas last October.

Waitematā Local Board chairperson Pippa Coom said this was a big concern to the local board, with the 90 people who cast a special vote determining the outcome of the seventh member on the board.

“On election night Jonathan Good was elected but this was overturned in favour of Vernon Tava once the special votes were counted. So what occurred is very serious and needs to be investigated,” she said.

Mrs Coom said the Waitematā Local Board had still not been provided with a clear explanation as to how the incident occurred.

She said the board was looking at improving the local body voting process through electronic voting, a longer election period, and all-day voting on the final election day.

Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board also raised concerns at a local board meeting in March, after reports some residences either did not receive voting papers in time, or at all.

Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board member Nick Bakulich said the number of missing votes was alarming where roughly one in seven households did not receive papers.

“These people were recent voters. There was no reason for them to not receive their papers. They had secure letter boxes, been at the same address for years, and just never received their papers,” he said.

“People want to have their say, and they can’t. We are about to elect people that residents want to vote for but they can’t participate in the democratic process.”

Mr Bakulich said there had been a lot of calls for online voting after low voter participation and issues with delivering ballots.

He added there was room for improvement in the voting process but at the end of the day, it was up to individuals.

“You can lead a horse to water, but if it drinks or not is another thing,” he said.

With voting papers delivered from September 16-21 last year and voting closing on October 8, Ōtāhuhu resident Raewyn Paea said voting papers should have been sent out earlier.

“This really concerns me, it shows that they don’t want a good turnout. It will be apathy that determines the votes, not votes,” she said in a Facebook post.

All feedback from local boards will be submitted to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee’s Inquiry into the 2016 local authority elections.

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