Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Local body clusterfuck

I was shocked by last night's news about inconsistencies and problems counting the local body vote, which have called into question some of the results. But I think people are being too eager to lay the blame at the feet of STV. This is not a problem with the STV system; it is a problem with the incompetance of the companies who were hired to count the ballots. They had more votes than expected, their software had the inevitable bug, and they seem to have had no plan to count the ballots by hand in the event of a problem. In short, it is what happens when you outsource to a company which has never done elections before.

Fortunately, there's a simple solution, backed by politicians across the political spectrum: give the whole thing to the Electoral Commission. They know how to run elections, they have an institutional memory longer than that of a goldfish, and they're far less likely to fuck it up. But I guess the private sector wouldn't be making any money off it then.

And as a final point, what do you think the odds are that any of the contracts with Datamail included a massive penalty clause in the event of this sort of screwup? Fortunately, we have a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 for just this purpose (DHBs are of course covered by the Official Information Act) - though they'll almost certainly try and hide behind "commercial sensitivity".