Validity of postal votes questioned

Monday July 14, 2014 Written by Published in Politics
Voters line up to have their say on election day last week. 14070906 Voters line up to have their say on election day last week. 14070906

The arrival of postal votes from New Zealand on Friday – two days after election day - has sparked concern over their validity.

Aitutaki Member of Parliament-elect Teina Bishop said the arrival of the postal votes on Friday appears to be in breach of section 68 of the Electoral Act, which states: “... No postal voting paper shall be valid unless it is received by the Chief Electoral Officer, as the case may be, before the close of the poll.”

Chief Electoral Officer Taggy Tangimetua said she was aware of concerns about the arrival date of the postal votes, but added the issue says more about the relevancy of the nation’s electoral laws than the actual procedures.

“That’s a technicality,” she said, when asked about the apparent contravention.

She said she has since received legal advice allowing her to treat the votes as having been received within the requirements of the Electoral Act.

Tangimetua said postal votes have been flowing in to her Avarua office since early May, when overseas voting was permitted to begin.

The final batch of votes that arrived last Friday consisted of votes that were received by the Cook Islands High Commission on voting week, up until Thursday 4pm New Zealand time.

She said she couldn’t say how many votes were received, as she has not opened a sealed envelope containing the postal votes.

Previously, Tangimetua said more than 100 postal votes had been received by her office out of a total of 300 issued.

The postal vote issue aside, she said the entire Electoral Act needs to revamped, describing certain provisions as impractical. 

“Our job is to turn the Act into a practice and into procedures,” she said. “There are gaps in the Electoral Act, and it needs to be reviewed.”

Yesterday, Tangimetua said the Electoral Office was commencing their final count of the votes, after the verification of elector eligibility for those who voted by declaration.

“Final results are expected to be released as each count is finalised and the last ones should be by Friday,” she said.

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