Friday, October 09, 2020

The advice on moving the election date

When the Prime Minister moved the election date back in August, I immediately lodged OIA requests with the Electoral Commission and Ministry of Justice for any advice they'd given. Both refused, on the basis that the information would be proactively released. That's finally happened, a mere three weeks after the Electoral Commission said it would, and you can read both agencies' advice here.

The big news is that the Commission recommended a full two month delay, until 21 November - as an October date "would not allow sufficient time for the Commission to revise all existing arrangements for voting places, staff and election communications". That seems to have been ignored, and very quickly the advice fixes on October. Reading the other documents, there are perhaps some reasons for that - less hassle with spending caps and the regulated period (and, while something that the Ministry of Justice could not advise on, less disruption to the parties' campaign plans). But nowhere are the reasons for the decision actually documented in this release: it is as if it happened by magic. So, either the full advice wasn't released, or it wasn't documented (in violation of the Public Records Act). Either way, this "proactive release" does not tell the full story, and is less than open.