Friday, June 21, 2019

For election-day enrolment

Yesterday the government announced some minor tweaks to the electoral system, including more locations for advance voting, and allowing people to enrol on election day. The changes were recommended by the Electoral Commission in its post-mortem on the 2017 election, and would lead to an extra 19,000 votes being counted. So you'd expect them to be accepted by all parties, right? But instead, National is claiming they are a "stitch-up":

National MP Nick Smith told RNZ the move was a "stitch-up" because same-day enrolment favoured left-wing parties.

"The government is simply cherry-picking electoral law changes that will improve its own chances of re-election in 2020," Dr Smith said.

"That should really raise the hairs on the back of those people who want our democracy to have integrity."

A democracy has integrity when everyone who is eligible to vote is able to. Currently the law prohibits this in a completely arbitrary manner: people who vote before election day - about 50% of us at present - can enrol and have their votes counted, while people who do it on the day can not. This may have made sense back in the day of pen and paper bureaucracy, when rolls were closed weeks before the election because it was simply not administratively possible to enrol people over the election period and verify their data quickly enough to have their vote count, but it makes no sense today. The Electoral Commission can check whether an enrolment is valid, and they did for about 130,000 people who enrolled during the election period. Excluding election day enrolments seems simply arbitrary and cruel. And there's no threat to the vote count: late enrolments are special votes, and so counted separately, after checking.

At least 19,000 extra votes would have been able to be counted if we'd done this last election. It speaks volumes about National's values that they don't want these people to vote. But like the British Tories in the C19th, or modern day US Republicans, it seems that if you scratch a right-winger, you find that they're really not that keen on democracy, and certainly not keen on high turnout. Its almost as if they think their policies aren't actually that popular, and that the only way to gain or retain power is to stop people who would vote them out from being able to do so...