Fair and Free election motivates people to vote

General Election 2017

Venkat Raman

Speaking at the Fourth Annual Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture held on July 28, 2014, former Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Don McKinnon said that the three foundation blocks of a democratic dispensation are universal – a legislature, an executive and a judiciary, independent of each other but interdependent.

“The Legislature must be the result of regular free and fair elections, where all the people feel they are represented; it helps create a government, it makes laws, makes money available to the Government and debates the issues of the day. The Executive that governs day-to-day must be answerable to the Legislature for everything it does. The Judiciary, well versed in the law, has the role to interpret, arbitrate and uphold the rule of law as expected by the Legislature,” he said.

True Pluralism

Sir Don, who is a former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, is currently the Patron of Transparency International New Zealand.

“Pluralism means there are choices and a wide spread of decision-making. It seems straightforward and common sense to us in New Zealand but is not always so in other countries,” he said.

His speech, delivered less than two months before General Election 2014, was a timely reminder of the importance of voting, as the most efficient and effective method of participation in the decision-making process.

Excellent Record

New Zealand has an excellent record of fair and free elections, with no incidence of fraud or foul means employed to gain votes.

The Electoral Commission, which administers the election process, including registering political parties, announcing their candidates, conducting the polling, counting the votes cast and declaring the provisional and final results, inspires public confidence.

An Electoral Commission communique says that voting is a secret ballot and hence no one knows the Party or Candidate chosen by individual voters.

“We value the democratic right to vote and we expect everyone who is eligible to take part in elections. New Zealanders know that they have the right to have their say; they may not always win but their voice will be heard. Who someone votes for is their choice,” the communique said.

Gain Knowledge

The website of the Electoral Commission provides comprehensive information on how, when and where to vote, the names of political parties registered with the Commission, the electorates, and statistical data of all elections held thus far in New Zealand.

Please visit www.elections.org.nz

The Commission regulates the conduct of the political parties, candidates and others involved in the election process and election expenses during the ‘regulated period’ (three months prior to the date of polling).

“You can find more information about local candidates and parties through the newspaper, television, radio, public meetings, and by talking with your friends and family. Listen to what the parties and candidates are saying. Visit their websites or go to their meetings. Think about who would be the best to represent you and the people you care about. There are online tools that can help you make your decision about who to

vote for, like Vote Compass and On the Fence,” the Communique said.

Checks and balances

According to Transparency International, New Zealand is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, of which our robust and trustworthy voting system is an integral part.

The voting process is supervised intensely by Electoral Commission Staff, Justices of the Peace, Scrutineers representing parties and candidates and election day workers from the local community.

New Zealand’s transparent system is augmented by checks and balances including rules on election advertising and the disclosure of donations to parties and candidates.

“There are limits and rules for political parties and candidates around spending on election advertising and the identification of promoters, so that people know who is behind the advertisements that they see. There are also rules in place for third party or lobby group advertising during the election campaign,” the Commission’s website says.

The Voting Process

While the actual date of General Election is September 23, 2017, voters can exercise their franchise any day from Monday, September 11, 2017, when advance voting opens.

Voters are not obliged to have a reason to vote in advance. For many people, advance voting provides a convenient option if they have travel plans or other reasons that may keep them away from a voting place on the day of the General Election.

You can vote at any voting place in the country but you may need to fill out an extra form called a special vote if you are voting outside your electorate. If you have an EasyVote card, take it when you go to vote and give it to the person issuing your voting paper. It will help them find you on the electoral roll.

They will ask you to confirm your name and give you your voting paper.

If you do not have an EasyVote card, you must inform the person issuing your vote your full name and address.

Take your voting paper to the private voting screen.

On your ballot paper, put a tick by the name of the political party of your choice, and a tick by the name of the candidate you would like to represent your local area.

These are your party and electorate votes.

This year, for the first time, people will be able to enrol or update their details at advance voting places, before they vote.

It makes advance voting places – where people go to cast a vote between September 11 and September 22, 2017 a one-stop-shop, where you can enroll and vote at the same time.

This will help reduce the number of votes disallowed because voters are not enrolled.

Information about where and when to vote will be available from August 30, 2017 at elections.org.nz or by calling 0800-367656.

EasyVote Pack

This information will be included in the EasyVote packs that will be sent to all enrolled voters. If you enrol by August 23, 2017, you will receive an EasyVote pack in the mail before the election with all the information you need to vote.

The pack will include candidate and party lists, as well as the locations of voting places during the advance voting period and on election day.

The Scrutiny

Electoral rolls are scrutinised to identify voters who have voted more than once. In the 2014 General Election, the Electoral Commission referred 126 cases to the Police where individuals appeared to have voted more than once.

This is an extremely small number within the 2,446,279 votes cast.

Brought to you by the Electoral Commission.

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