Electoral Amendment Bill missing one important change

The Electoral Amendment Bill has …?passed its first reading with unanimous support, says Justice Minister Amy Adams.

The Bill implements recommendations made by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee Inquiry into the 2014 General Election that require a law change, and can be implemented in time for the 2017 General Election.

“The proposed changes in the Bill focus on improving services to voters, candidates and parties by making the law and voting process more user-friendly and adapting to changing voter behaviours,” says Ms Adams.

Key features of the legislation include:

– allowing electoral officials in voting places on election day to be able check a voter?s enrolment status by looking up and marking them off electronically, rather than having to rely on paper-based rolls

– permitting the counting of advance votes earlier on Election Day to ensure preliminary results can be announced in a timely manner

– allowing the Electoral Commission to use new methods of providing information to electors via email, in addition to post

– banning campaigning and the display of campaign material inside and within 10 metres of Advance Voting Places.

The Bill will now go to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee for further review.

Ms Adams says that the vast majority of the changes in the Bill have already been carefully considered by the Committee and unanimously recommended.

Rather unremarkably, there is no unanimous support to have all electoral breaches prosecuted. ?The Electoral Commission hands all complaints to police. ?Police then put them in a drawer and when all the heat has gone out of the issue, announce that they will not prosecute.

As we’ve seen for the last half a dozen elections, political parties, sitting MPs and even hopefuls take advantage of this zero-repercussions environment to create unfair advantage. ?We only have to point at Labour’s Pledge Card debacle, but there are dozens and dozens of examples every election. ?Proof exists in many cases. ?Yet no prosecution results.

Just hypothetically, say that some Labour ministers, let’s say Megan Woods and Ruth Dyson mobilised all Labour voters in the local body elections by using the Labour Party database for a mail-out. ?Using parliamentary budgets and resources. ?And let’s say that people stuffing the envelopes notice that there are gaps in the addresses they are sending the material to. ?Finally, pretend they are told that the mailing list was taken from the electoral roll.

Crime of the Century? ? No. ?Just politics as it always was.

But those people who know about hypothetical situations know there is no point in pursuing this through the Electoral Commission. ? Because in the end, the police will not prosecute.