The 2011 general election inquiry

May 2nd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Justice & Electoral Select Committee has (finally) reported back on its inquiry into the 2011 general election. A lot of recommendations to comment on. I’ll cover the major ones.

Examining the merits of a standalone postal vote versus a referendum in conjunction with the general election when making decisions about future public referenda

I think it was a mistake in hindsight to have the MMP referendum with the general election. There was a dearth of coverage in broadcast media on the referendum as it was focused on the election. It would be better for referenda in future to be postal (preferably with an online option also).

Prohibiting electioneering activity on election day, including the wearing of rosettes, lapel badges, ribbons, streamers, and party apparel, other than the wearing of a party rosette by a scrutineer inside a polling station

Not a big issue, but it is silly to have a prohibition on advertising but still allow the above stuff.

Commissioning a review of existing regulations applying to social media on election day, to determine whether they are workable

It got very silly when people were warned that even tweeting about the weather could be an offence as it could discourage some people from voting. The law needs to distinguish between communications aimed at persuading people how to vote, and communications that are just sharing how people voted etc.

The aim of the non-electioneering law on e-day is to stop people being bullied into how to vote. It isn’t meant to stop conversations – even online ones.

Amending the 1993 to ensure that there is a significant penalty to act as a deterrent to failing to file a return in a deliberate attempt to defeat the operation of electoral law

Sensible. The current law encourages parties to file no return, as it is a lesser penalty than a false return.

Amending Part 6 of the Electoral Act 1993 to authorise the Electoral Commission to use an EasyVote card as the record an ordinary vote has been issued and as evidence that a special voter is eligible to vote, and to compile manual or electronic records of who has cast an ordinary or special vote using the EasyVote card or other verification methods

That is a very good idea. An electronic record of who has voted (but not how they voted) would provide invaluable demographic data which could be useful in efforts to increase turnout.

Amending the Electoral Act 1993 to make it clear that the Electoral Commission has the power to recalculate and amend the allocation of list seats for an election as the result of a successful election petition regarding an electorate seat

This is important, albeit unlikely. If (for example) a party got 4% of the vote and lost an electorate seat by 10 votes, then they get no seats in Parliament. If an election petition concluded they actually won the electorate seat then there is no mechanism for them to get the four or five list MPs they would have got if they had been declared winner of the electorate seat initially. This change would remedy that.

Examining the current electoral enforcement provisions to determine whether they are adequate

I’m disappointed this recommendation is not stronger. The Police have shown for three elections in a row that they have no interest in enforcing electoral law, and worse little knowledge of it. Their decisions in 2005 were legally incompetent, and they never acted on scores of referrals in both 2008 and 2011. I will be very upset if no change is made in this area, as it is dangerous to have no effective enforcement of electoral law.

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7 Responses to “The 2011 general election inquiry”

  1. davidp (3,557 comments) says:

    >The Police have shown for three elections in a row that they have no interest in enforcing electoral law

    I’m happy that the Police take this passive position. The objective of electoral law should be to prohibit corruption. Either where people are improperly pressured to vote for a person or party, or where a winner owes a bunch of favours to a person or group. Instead, they’re asked to take action on a whole lot of unimportant process trivia. Such as whether a balloon with a giant Labour logo on it also needs a tiny authorisation statement. Or whether GST should be included in a return or not. Or whether splitting donations so they’re below the declaration value is a crime, while the same donation channeled through a trust is not.

    We end up with an electoral law with lots of detailed rules which have no public interest objective, but which allow opponents to jump around screaming “crime” while they refer people to the Police. The Police are wise to ignore this posturing. I wish we’d update electoral law to get rid of the complexity and take it back to the basics that matter.

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  2. Redbaiter (8,032 comments) says:

    Mostly just garbage.

    Especially the stuff regarding advertising, conversations, social media (what a fuckwit term) and expenditure limits.

    Remove it all and let’s just have an open and free election.

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  3. Graeme Edgeler (3,277 comments) says:

    I was a little disappointed with the response to our suggestion of a referendum act.

    The reason given against it is at best a reason against doing it in one particular way. The concern raised could easily be addressed while still ensuring we don’t have to reinvent the entire machinery of a referendum every time we want to hold one.

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  4. David Farrar (1,872 comments) says:

    Graeme. I agree. We should write a bill and try and find an MP to stick it in the ballot.

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  5. s.russell (1,580 comments) says:

    I continue to be puzzled as to why it is not possible for special votes to be counted on election night. While this will mean counting many votes subsequently disallowed it would still give us a much more accurate pointer to the final, official result.
    It is absurd that we have to wait 10 days to find out the result when it has been a close election.

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  6. scrubone (3,082 comments) says:

    That is a very good idea. An electronic record of who has voted (but not how they voted) would provide invaluable demographic data which could be useful in efforts to increase turnout.

    No. It’s the government’s job to act on the election results, not to enable manipulation of them.

    If people chose not to exercise their hard-won voting rights, then that’s their loss.

    The Police have shown for three elections in a row that they have no interest in enforcing electoral law, and worse little knowledge of it. Their decisions in 2005 were legally incompetent,

    National had the ability to do something about this, by launching a royal inquiry into the election and the various charges (yes, including National’s GST blunder). They didn’t. To me, that basically endorse the view that what Labour did was ok. If the government doesn’t care that much, then why should the police?:

    [DPF: Umm, National was not Government after the 2005 election so they could not have launched an inquiry into anything]

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  7. Graeme Edgeler (3,277 comments) says:

    I continue to be puzzled as to why it is not possible for special votes to be counted on election night. While this will mean counting many votes subsequently disallowed it would still give us a much more accurate pointer to the final, official result.

    Special votes are secured (using double envelopes) in such a way that the vote is only opened once it has been determined that they will be allowed in.

    This allows for all the argument with returning officers at the official count to happen without having any idea what way the vote will go. If they were counted on the night in the same way as every other vote, then the assessment of whether someone not clearly entitled to vote was in fact entitled to vote that occurs during the official count would occur with knowledge of the effect of making a decision one way or the other.

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