Simon Power has introduced the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill which merges together the Chief Electoral Officer and the Electoral Commission. After the 2011 election, they will also add in the Chief Registrar of Electors.
The new Commission will come into force on 1 October 2010. It will have three Commissioners appointed by the GG on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. One Commissioner will be the Chairperson. Another will be the Chief Electoral Officer and Chief Executive of the Commission. There can also be a Deputy Chairperson.
The bill provides for the Minister to consult with the parliamentary leaders of all parties in Parliament, before recommending/making appointments.
I don’t regard this as satisfactory. While the current Minister I am sure would not appoint someone objected to by the other parties, the former Government often ignored objections by other parties with regards to their appointments.
I actually believe the three Commissions should be appointed directly by Parliament, and that the Commission should be an “Office of Parliament” not a crown entity. The preamble states this was considered but rejected as not fitting the criteria. I plan to ask under the OIA for documents about why this was so.
I don’t think the Government of the Day should be able to appoint the Electoral Commissioners. The Bill even allows for the possibility that a Member of Parliament could be appointed to the Electoral Commission (which would vacate their seat).
I think the merger is a long overdue idea, and the Bill should 100% go to select committee. But I do hope serious consideration is given to making the appointment of the Electoral Commissioners more independent from the Government of the Day. Either they should be officially appointed by Parliament itself, or there should be a requirement or the Minister to obtain written consent to a recommendation from Leaders representing both 75% of the parties in Parliament, and representing at least 75% of MPs.