The top official at the Electoral Commission, Alicia Wright, says that New Zealand voters can be confident that when they head to the polls in September that their vote will be secret and that their vote will count.
Voting starts in New Zealand’s General Election on 11 September and goes through to election day on 23 September.
“New Zealanders who are new to our voting system might have questions about how the system works,” says Chief Electoral Officer, Alicia Wright. “I can assure them that it is a robust and secure system and that they should feel comfortable casting their vote.”
One of the jobs of the Electoral Commission is to keep the electoral roll up to date. It is a legal requirement for eligible voters to be on the electoral roll.
When enrolling people are asked a number of questions including their name, date of birth, residential and postal addresses, and occupation. The information helps avoid mix-ups with other voters who have the same name. The only details published on the electoral roll are a person’s name, the address where they live and their occupation. The other details are not made public.
“When it comes to the security of the vote we have an excellent record,” says Ms Wright. “Transparency International rates New Zealand as one of the least corrupt countries in the world and our robust and trustworthy voting system is a big part of that.”“In the last election 2,446,279 votes were cast,” says Ms Wright. “Voter fraud is rare and we have systems in place to identify it when it happens.”
Electoral rolls are checked to identify people who appear to have voted more than once and those cases are referred to the Police. In the 2014 General Election 126 cases were referred to the Police.
New Zealand has had a secret ballot for nearly 150 years since 1870 and many steps are taken to ensure that no one knows how another person has voted. Voters mark their ballot paper behind a private screen and then place the ballot paper in a box that remains sealed until the votes are counted. There is no information on the ballot paper that can readily identify who the voter is.
Ballot papers are counted twice; the first time on election night and then again in a detailed official count that takes two weeks. The count is done in the presence of Justices of the Peace and party or candidate scrutineers, who can observe and check that everything is done as it should be.
After the official count, all used ballot papers are held in sealed packages in a secure location. They are kept locked away for six months in case they are needed for a recount. After six months the packages are destroyed, unopened.
“Over the next few weeks the public will see parties and candidates campaigning for votes,” says Ms Wright. “There are also checks and balances in our system to promote a fair campaign.”
Clear campaign rules are set out in the law for political parties, candidates and third parties around election advertising, spending limits and declarations of donations and expenses. These declarations provide the public with information about their election activities.
“Voters can trust the New Zealand electoral system. We want all eligible voters to take part in the coming election and have their say on who will represent them in Parliament for the next three years.”
To be eligible to enrol and vote a person must be 18 years old or older, be a New Zealand Citizen or permanent resident and have lived in New Zealand for one year or more continuously at some point.
More information about enrolling and voting is available in 27 different languages at www.elections.org.nz.
Brought to you by the Electoral Commission.