Tuesday, October 05, 2021

The electoral law review

This morning the government announced an "independent" review of electoral law, to look at "changes to the voting age, the three-year Parliamentary term, funding of political parties, overseas voting and Electoral Commission recommendations on MMP". My feelings about this are... complicated.

Firstly, an independent review of the voting age would be a very good thing, and would hopefully lead to a reduction. But linking it implicitly to a four-year term is really making it a shit sandwich, and casts doubt on the whole exercise. The government has made clear its enthusiasm to be less accountable to the people (which is what a four-year term means), so they're basicly saying this "review" will be of the strapped-chicken variety, with the reviewers carefully chosen to produce the outcome they want. As for the Electoral Commission recommendations, we've already had a review of those, so the government throwing them in is basicly a way of putting off doing anything about them (an outcome I don't mind, because those recommendations would make our parliament less representative, but its slimy and dishonest. OTOH Labour originally supported that package, though that was three leaders ago, so this suggests they've changed their mind. Still slimy and dishonest though, because there's obviously something they've changed it to, which they should be up-front about). As for overseas voting, its inclusion in the review is a clear signal that the government doesn't care about the pandemic's disenfranchisement of kiwis trapped overseas.

But then there's the report-back date: "late 2023" according to the government PR, with changes to be implemented for the 2026 election. Which means a) the government is ruling out a referendum on term-length at the 2023 election (and perhaps entirely, something which would be completely illegitimate); and b) they're perfectly happy for young people to be disenfranchised (and political parties to be corrupt) for another five years. "Transformative"? My arse.

Is it worth engaging with such an exercise in bad faith? Well, the presence of the voting age means I will have to - not doing so would betray young people. But the other stuff means I'm not going to feel happy about it. Participation takes time and energy, which is a limited resource. The government demanding it so it can launder its pre-determined policy and say it has had "public consultation" is just abusive. "Consultation" you were always going to ignore isn't (see also: any national security law with an "abbreviated" select committee process).

It is obvious from the above that I do not trust this process, and I do not trust politicians to make these decisions with party and self-interest corrupting the process entirely. So what process would I like to see? IMHO, the only truly independent review would be one carried out by appropriately supported, randomly-selected citizens: a citizen's jury.