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Turn off turnout – National’s 2014 strategy?

Written By: - 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.


41 comments on “Turn off turnout – National’s 2014 strategy?”

  1. Tim G. 1

    Fuck’s sake…

  2. Roy 2

    “greatly increased risk of multiple voting through fraudulent votes cast for people who are deceased”
    RWNJs love to roll out the bogeyman of fraudulent voting. The Repuglicans roll out the same bogeyman in the US, but in reality it is a miniscule problem.

    • Mr Burns 2.1

      But, but the republican measures mean that less poor people vote and increase the power of rich industrialists.
      If they did not do this there would be rampant democracy and people would start having wild thoughts like having a proper social security system, or universial medicare or proper environmental standards.
      Then the Government would stop paying subsidies to oil companies or, gasp, nuclear power station owners and then we would have utter social chaos. Sure poor people would get adequate medical treatment but the sales of BMWs would plummet overnight.
      You must be one of those hippy communist sorts Roy.

  3. Ianmac from Vietnam 3

    Here all votes are scrutinised carefully long after polling day. One by one with the covered number uncovered and name checked against that register used by each polling booth. If there are signs of multiple votes by one person the police check out the who and where. In NZ fraud is almost non-existent and we do not even need a drivers license to enrol or vote. So long may it stay that way.

    • Glg 3.1

      Voter fraud almost unheard of in the States too, but that hasn’t stopped the Republicans. Remember, it doesn’t have to be true, as long as the accusations have a sound of ‘truthiness’, and it serves to inflame the public.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    I think in Australia , the rolls close on the 7th working day after the election writs are issued. So its fairly early there as well

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      Except in Australia, you’re legally required to vote or risk being fined, and they do actually enforce it.

      • Akldnut 4.1.1

        Yep I know a few who got stung for not voting when I was in Aussie!

      • ghostwhowalksnz 4.1.2

        But you cant vote if you arent on the roll !

        • Carol

          But it is also compulsory to register if you are a citizen (when I lived there I wasn’t allowed to vote, but got letters asking why I wasn’t enrolled).


          So I think it’s not that easy to avoid registering to vote.

          • Maui

            Australian voting booths were like community events compared to the empty school hall in which I voted at around 10 AM in Wellington during the last election.

            I would support compulsory voting in NZ if it were feasible, but know the NATs and their allies will ferociously oppose it for the reasons given above.

            What happened to notions of civic duty on both sides of politics ?

  5. Anne 5

    So that’s why the Nat ministers love tripping off to the States. They’re looking to study and emulate the latest Republican Party electoral rorts. Hey… is that why John Key couldn’t attend those two soldiers’ memorial service the other week. 🙂

  6. captain hook 6

    Yeah the right is so thick here they have to buy their ideas from the right wing think tanks in the US and then get neanderthals like big red hooton to spin it for them.
    they cant even do that for themselves on the stump..

    • Anne 6.1

      Hooton isn’t a neanderthal captain hook. He’s a smart cookie with an analytical mind. Trouble is, he’s ideologically well to the right, and he’s willing to spin any spurious and spiteful crap necessary to promote his political cause which is the election of right wing Nat. based governments in NZ.

      • DJ 6.1.1

        Ah not like you ideologists who swing extremely left ……. hmmmmmmm

        • Anne

          OMG. He calls the centre-left extremely left. There are some people whose brain cells are so few and far between, that it’s too hit and miss to really be worth bothering about. 🙄

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    You raise crucial points Mike. National must not be allowed to game our democratic processes and effectively disenfranchise large numbers of voters.

    But one thing you said that I don’t get:

    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.

    So what I want to understand is, why do you think our next election is “going to be very close”?

    Indeed, why is Labour not tipping towards 40% on the polls, given Key’s erratic handling of issues? His complete disregard for our service personnel? The behaviour blowouts of his support parties? The fact that asset sales are the most widely disliked Government policy for two decades? The complete screw ups in Education and the mean spirited handling of portfolios covering Corrections, WINZ and more? The fumble which is the Christchurch rebuild, and the fact that more Kiwis than ever are leaving this country, petrol is at nominal record highs, and youth unemployment remains at critical levels?

    And after all this, you conclude that our next election “is also going to be very close”? Who exactly is National up against in the next election? Poorly warmed up left overs?

    With all due respect…what the???!

    • You_Fool 7.1

      Green + Labour are close to National who will have no support partners next election, Act is dead and gone and the conservatives will ensure more people move left.

    • DJ 7.2

      “petrol is at nominal record highs”

      Ah you forgot a few off your list. Of course there are more earthquakes now, there have been some volcanos erupting, there has been a lot of rain lately and even some surfable waves on the North Shore.

      National have to go ……….

      • lprent 7.2.1

        Sounds as sensible as “we want a taxcut for the wealthy even if we can’t afford it, and besides I’m tired of the same old faces (especially Winston)..” which was pretty much what happened in 2008 once you remove the excuse memes that wandered around.

        Voters eh! They know what they want….

  8. Raymond A Francis 8

    A couple of anomalies show up in the comments, apparently Right wing are:
    “So thick here they have to buy their ideas from the right wing think tanks in the US and then get neanderthals like big red hooton to spin it for them.”

    While the Left’s voters or at least the ” low-income voters ” who are expected to support Labour, are so dumb they can’t be bothered to get off their arses to enrol or vote

    Now I am a little reluctant allow my future to be determined by people like that but if you think the system is going to be rorted

    Get off your arses, organise, get the people enrolled, to the ballot box and put in your submissions

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Get off your arses, organise, get the people enrolled, to the ballot box and put in your submissions

      Sensible suggestions. But has Labour given up on the huge non-turnout voter? In favour of targetting the disloyal ‘it’s all about me’ middle class “swing” vote?

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      That’s the problem with disenfranchising of voters by parties not being representative of them – they don’t get anyone to vote for. It’s not that they’re “dumb” but that they’re looking and can’t see any benefit in voting when the choice they have is between tweedledum and tweedledummer.

      Get off your arses, organise, get the people enrolled, to the ballot box and put in your submissions

      Yep. Still won’t work if the parties don’t represent the people that they’re trying to get to vote.

  9. Mike Smith 9

    @CV re your 40% I don’t think polls move that fast – the exception being Brash on one law for all. The trend line is more important, and the things you mention take time to work their way through to a wider perception in the electorate.
    Have a look at the latest Roy Morgan poll – http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2012/4810/
    He provides a trend graph which shows Greens + Labour ahead of National on August 10; more importantly, Labour and Greens are trending up and National is trending down.
    Morgan’s comment is “If a National Election were held today today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll suggests an election result would be ‘too close to call.” And there are still two years to go.
    That is why I think National are worried, and why they are trying to change the rules to their advantage.

    • lprent 9.1

      I see why you mean. The GCI looks like it plateauing, but at levels that would make any government quail.

      The polls have got to be good. Yep…

      • Colonial Viper 9.1.1

        Labour is getting a lot of expensive, frequent internal polling done, which to my mind is like driving with one eye glued to the rear view mirror.

        One of the worst electoral outcomes I can think of in 2014 is a one term, one seat majority Labour (-Greens) Government which is too meek to do anything of lasting substance (i.e. busy trying to stay good with the ‘centre’) and which is then subsequently run out of office for another 2 (or 3) Tory terms.

        @CV re your 40% I don’t think polls move that fast

        The Roy Morgan charts show that polls have no trouble moving 0.5% per month or more on average, for sustained periods. 24 months to the next elections. How much worse does National have to do before Labour gets traction?

        Of course, what I am implying here (none to subtly I admit) is that this is not really about National at all. After all, if 2014 really is a close election (when Roy Morgan says that it is already too close to call *today*) it will only be because Labour has leisurely meandered its way there.

        • fatty

          Labour needs to be well ahead of National 6 months before the election. If Labour continue to stick with the guitar-strumming mumbler, then they need to account for getting owned in the pre-election leaders debates.

          • Draco T Bastard

            I don’t think relying on Labour is a viable option. They’re still to attached to the neo-liberal/classical school of economics despite the fact that the GFC just proved that entire theory doesn’t friggen work and they’re chasing the centre while ignoring about 30% of the population that also happen to be the most vulnerable and need good representation in parliament.

        • Tracey

          “getting a lot of expensive, frequent internal polling done, which to my mind is like driving with one eye glued to the rear view mirror. : this also sums up our current “leadership” and explains the lack of plans, including Plans B and C to asset sales. IT’s as though the assets will be sold, and hey presto the work is done, surely there must be plans to come after the sales???

    • We certainly need to be aware Mike. The Tories will do anything to win.Im picking that they will make the Maori water issue a ” them or us ” debate Just watch the red-neck vote ( which Im sad to say is big ) increase
      The Iwi /Kiwi type advertising Core-Flutes will be swamping the countryside. Alrteady cunning Key has stated that no one owns water.
      Be vigilante !

  10. Glg 10

    The number of people who are still talking National vs Labour still haven’t got their head around MMP. Having said that, that’s how the media are still playing things as well. Labour on its own are in big trouble. They all sat around during the last election, believing the old FPP chestnut that National would get two terms. If they had got off their behinds and worked in Watakere and South Auckland, they might not be in opposition now. Having said that, if Labour are busy being National Lite, and bashing beneficiaries, why would the poor and the dispossessed vote Labour?
    And while I am at it, why do Labour not challenge the propaganda that there is no money for social program’s, but plenty of money for consultants, and dumbass roading projects. How about a few simple graphs people can understand? Of course then you would have to get them out to the bought and paid for media.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 10.1

      you are dreaming surely ?

    • tc 10.2

      Woah enough of the simple stuff that people can understand along with some hard work.

      Geniuses like mallard/pagani and co know better than that (you know the folk behind the 08 and 11 losses) and with candidates like the one in my electorate who lost by an even bigger margin to a lazy, deceptive and dishonest Nat MP, what was a safe labour seat till going blue in 08.

      She couldn’t answer the question as to why, in public debates she didn’t challenge his lies, gave a diversionary answer and moaned he does it all the time. At least she’s not sucking a list teat this term.

  11. Raymond A Francis 11

    I think you are being too negitive about the Lefts ability long term to have the majority of voters support
    Most of the Rights vote comes from those who can say “I am all right Jack” and as long as National rules they think they will be but as time goes by under the present World conditions they will be a disappearing breed, that is what the polls are tell us now IMHO

  12. captain hook 12

    The civil society has come to mean don’t talk back to your betters.
    And the best way to ensure that there are more losers for the winners to laugh at is to use the power of privilege and money to skew the vote so only the “betters” get a vote.

    • DJ 12.1

      What a load of drivel. Everyone gets a vote. Why is it someone else’s fault when the uninspired don’t get off their arses and influence the results.

      But to be honest ….. what was there to vote for? Left to right (in my opinion) …… Mana, Greens, Empty Void, NF, National, ACT, Conservatives

      • Tracey 12.1.1

        Your Empty Void needs to be moved to the right and needs to read United Future. *I* would never call P Dunne an Empty Void but I will die for your right to do so.

  13. captain hook 13

    they dont get a vote if they have been removed from the roll without their knowledge.
    and the Labour Party is the only party with a social conscience so it suits the tories to remove those people who have most to lose.

  14. Wisewoman 14

    Grant McKenna is a former South African who lives in Dunedin, is a strong supporter of the National Party and is fairly petulant about any decision that is not conservative. He was like that there; he’s like that here too.

    SIGNED: another very embarrassed South African

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