Doubting the election result | The Jackal

23 Sep 2014

Doubting the election result

You might have noticed or even signed a petition to get the 2014 election recounted. To date, 8,586 people have put their names to this petition, which in terms of political activism in New Zealand is quite a lot.

The people behind the petition and those signing it have come under a lot of criticism, some of it justified and some of it not. The problem here isn't just that there's a lack of evidence to clearly show vote rigging has taken place, it’s that the reaction to people exercising their democratic right to set up and sign a petition is a bit over the top.

I should clearly state my position on this matter. I don’t believe there's enough evidence to show election fraud and therefore justify a recount. However, I am not saying that vote rigging in New Zealand is impossible. One blogger who does appear to be saying that vote rigging is impossible in Aotearoa is Idiot/Savant.

Yesterday, No Right Turn posted:

Deranged

Saturday's result was a shock for the left. And for some, it was apparently so shocking that it can only have been the result of fraud. So they're petitioning the head of the Electoral Commission for a recount.

Naturally, they present no evidence - just their feeling that "something doesn't seem right", and that the result "makes no sense". Scarily, over 7,600 people agree with them.

This is utterly deranged. Any fraud would have to be widespread, across multiple polling places and districts. There would be evidence. And the thousands of party activists who volunteered to scrutinise the poll and the count would be speaking up about it. As would the electoral commission staff, returning officers and poll workers. Democracy goes deep in New Zealand, and people of all parties would be affronted by attempts to undermine it. Its just not the New Zealand way.

Clearly Idiot/Savant is using a very old debating technique here, by saying that to question the establishment and its processes is unpatriotic. ‘How could you not trust your fellow Kiwis’ is the implied question, which combined with the name calling is designed to demoralize those thinking about or actually signing the petition.

But the dumbest thing: every New Zealand election already receives a full recount (during which special votes are counted and the rolls are scrutinized to detect dual voting and failed personation). Only after that do the results become official. And after that, there's a whole judicial recount process if anyone has any concerns.

Here’s the actual rules. BTW, the Electoral Commission doesn’t release figures about voter fraud. Therefore unless Idiot/Savant has some sort of inside knowledge about such matters, he/she cannot claim to know whether or not vote rigging has or is occurring in New Zealand.

There's also a reddit discussion on the matter, with the initial commentator, tommcg, writing:

Petition to recount votes because election was 'rigged'. Are you kidding me? Even as a left supporter, this shit makes me beyond mad. 
Not to mention all the people bleating about how the election is rigged because you don't need ID to vote & can just go vote at another voting place. Why do people need to be so stupid?

Personally I don't see any problem with people having to produce a form of ID to be able to vote. This would be the best way to ensure a person didn't make multiple votes at different polling booths. Another commentator, apteryxmantelli, also writes:

I may not like the fact that nearly 50% of NZ votes were cast for National, but it happened. Those 1800 signatories to that poll would be far better served joining a political party and getting involved now to help make things a bit different in 3 years time.

This comment raises the issue of who the people signing the petition are and whether or not they would join a political party in order to effect change?

I suspect that the majority of people who sign the petition aren't very interested in joining political parties, because they've clearly already lost faith in the system. It would also seem probable that they didn't vote for National, and would have been disappointed that the status quo remains in power. I can identify with them in this respect.

The other issue here is that there likely won't be any transparency about how the voting system works, even if this petition is tabled in the House of Representatives. This is unfortunate, because it might be clear-cut to political party observers or those working within the electoral commission that there is no electoral fraud, but it's not transparent to the general public. This creates a degree of doubt in many people's minds, especially when there are glaringly obvious cases of government corruption in other areas.

The main issue here is that, because of their doubt about vote rigging going unanswered, many of those 8,586 people aren't likely to vote again. This should be particularly concerning to left wing parties, especially considering their likely voting preferences. Another concern here is that there are a number of prominent people currently promoting the idea that not voting is some sort of solution to dirty politics. This is clearly not a good dynamic to have if we want to increase participation rates, which in my opinion is the only realistic answer to our current political conundrum.

Despite what their propagandists claim, the non-vote clearly benefits right wing parties. That's why they aren't going to do anything about increasing transparency or participation. In fact they’re likely to work to undermine these things, because it works in their favour.

Finally, here's Nandor Tanczos' take on the matter:

Stop saying that you think the election was rigged. The left lost. (This for the more volatile activists).

I have to agree with Nandor here, because without some sort of solid evidence like these videos from the Scottish referendum, claims that our electoral process is rigged will go nowhere. In fact such claims, and especially the negative reaction to those making them, are likely to do further damage to our already low participation rates in New Zealand...and that's of no benefit to democracy at all.