Written By: Mike Smith - Date published: 3:56 pm, August 27th, 2012 - 41 comments
Categories: community democracy, democracy under attack, democratic participation, election 2014, electoral commission, racism, same old national, us politics - Tags:
Depress turnout among low-income voters by changing the enrolment rules – voter suppression is an old right-wing trick. The Republicans are doing it in the US – voter enrolment rules are set at State level and Republican-led States are moving to require voters to produce photo ID.
The US Presidential election is going to be very close, with a few key States determining in the outcome, as Florida did for George Bush in 2000 via the hanging chads and the Republican-appointed Supreme Court. Blacks and Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008. Many low-income voters do not have photo ID. So Republican strategists aim to change the rules and change the game in their favour.
New Zealanders have now decided that MMP is here to stay. National’s majority in Parliament is down to one, and our next election is also going to be very close.
It appears that some in National are already looking at how they may change the rules to their advantage. Andrew Geddis at Pundit has pointed to the possibility of systematic gaming of responses to the Electoral Commission’s proposals to improve MMP.
I suspect there may also be a systematic approach to proposals to close off enrolment early. I got a hint of this after I had given my own submission to the Committee, when I listened to Toni Millar on speakerphone argue that all voters should be enrolled a month before election day. She said that she had visited many polling booths last election day, and after a question from Lianne Dalziel MP said that this was because she was visiting for the National Party. She is presumably the same Toni Millar as stood for selection in Tamaki (by the way receiving faint praise from Whaleloil.)
Prompted by Andrew Geddis’ post, I had a look at all 56 submissions to the election review. Eight had raised issues relating to the roll, and one of the eight was a form submission from ten named individuals.
There were some noticeable similarities among these eight submissions. Six commented on the dormant roll, five spoke of dubious voting practices without providing any evidence, four advocated early closing of the rolls, with the form submission advocating a return to the three-month closure. Three had made submissions after hearing about these issues at a meeting.
There was also strong National Party representation in these eight submissions. The form submission did not reveal any names on the Parliamentary Select Committee webpage. You had to open it to find that it came from Gary Kircher, David MacKenzie, David Hiatt, Dan Dolejs, Robyn Broughton, Colin Truman, Jim Gerard, Grant McKenna, Charlotte Kerse and Frank Brenmuhl, all from South Island locations. Jim Gerard is a former National Cabinet Minister, Robyn Broughton is Dunedin South National co-chair, Gary Kircher is National’s Waitaki electorate chair, and Dan Dolejs wished Key all the best for the election.
Other submissions came from Elspeth Ludemann, who blogs as Homepaddock and is National Regional Co-Chair; Karl Varley who is Chairman of the National Party Christchurch Central Electorate; and Kate Hazlett who was 2009 Southern National Chair and is now a current member of National Party Board of Directors.
Labour and United Future made submissions, the National Party did not. No other submitters to the Select Committee saw the dormant roll as an issue requiring comment. I’ve scrutinised a few vote counts and the electoral officials are scrupulously competent. The largest group of submitters in fact called for more civic education in schools, a very good idea.
It may be that National’s real target is the removal of continuous enrolment, introduced in 2002 as a way to encourage turnout. Early closure of the rolls, advocated by the form submission and others in the above group, inhibits enrolment in the election campaign period. The Electoral Enrolment Centre’s submission to the review showed that 57,196 voters were enrolled between writ day and election day for example.
National’s minority report on the 2002 legislation introducing continuous enrolment contained in the Inquiry into the 1999 General Election predicted that it would “endanger the very validity of elections”; there would be “greatly increased risk of multiple voting through fraudulent votes cast for people who are deceased”; that “constitutional government would be imperilled”; “people will not believe that governments are properly elected”, “respect for law and constitutional government will be diminished”; and “our democracy endangered.” They also opposed early vote counting as “the thin end of the wedge.”
The sky hasn’t fallen in on constitutional government or democracy. But National may with justification fear that it’s chances at the next election are under real threat. And there is no doubt that a much greater threat to democracy than continuous enrolment comes from voter suppression.
That looks like National’s plot. It should not succeed.