The battle for Christchurch Central

The Press reports:

Labour MP Brendon Burns won more polling booths on election night than National Party challenger and list candidate Nicky Wagner.

Electoral Commission figures show 27 booths inside and outside the electorate boundaries were won by Burns and 26 by Wagner.

However, the number of ordinary votes made in other electorates before polling day favoured Wagner in five seats – Christchurch Central, Ilam, Selwyn, Waimakariri and Wigram – with Burns the choice of early voters in Christchurch East and Port Hills.

Both candidates finished with 10,493 votes on Saturday night and are awaiting the final announcement on December 10 after special votes have been counted.

If Burns win, Wagner will be a National List MP and Labour List MP Raymond Huo will be out. This will hurt Labour as he is a good fund-raiser for them.

If Wagner wins, then Burns is out of Parliament, but Huo remains.

I will not be surprised if we do not get a final result on 10 December. If that result is a majority of a few dozen only, the losing candidate may apply for a judicial recount, which can be asked for up until Wednesday 14 December. If the result after specials is again a tie, then the judicial recount is applied for by the Electoral Commission and is mandatory.

A judicial recount must start within three working days of application and the major focus would be on whether certain special votes are valid or not.

If after the judicial recount there is still a tie, then the Electoral Commission determines by lot which candidate is elected. But that would probably not be the end of it.

If a majority is in single figures, the losing candidate might lodge an electoral petition. This is more likely if Burns loses as his career depends on winning, while Wagner is an MP regardless. A petition must be lodged within 28 days of the final result (after the judicial recount if there is one).

Any petition goes to a bench of three High Court Judges appointed by the Chief Justice. The petition can only be heard at least two weeks after it is filed.

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