According to the final vote count released by the Cook Islands Electoral Office on June 28, 63 votes were cast in the constituency of Rakahanga and 273 in the constituency of Pukapuka-Nassau.
But a table published on the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management website on June 12 listed the total registered elector population of Rakahanga at just 61, with 271 for Pukapuka-Nassau.
Chief electoral officer Taggy Tangimetua may have an explanation for this however.
“That figure is as of that date (June 12),” she explained. “It could be that someone had come of age after that 61 was published. If your birthday fell on say the 13th of June.
“You may have come of age on election day or the day before and you register then apply for a vote by declaration.”
Qualified electors are required to have registered and be listed on the electoral roll to be eligible to vote – and in fact face a $100 fine if they have not registered.
However, according to the Cook Islands Electoral Act 2004, it is possible to vote by declaration on election day if you have not registered – but only if you have “since the closing of the rolls become qualified to be an elector in a constituency”.
“On election day we cannot stop anybody coming in to exercise their rights, otherwise we would be disenfranchising the people,” said Tangimetua.
“But, having exercised that vote by declaration, then your vote will be checked against whether you are actually qualified. If not, then your vote will be disqualified.”
Both the Rakahanga and Pukapuka-Nassau constituencies are the subject of petitions lodged by Democratic Party candidates Tina Browne and Willie Katoa respectively.
Katoa’s petition alleges that some 19 electors in Pukapuka-Nassau were not qualified to vote and should not have had their votes counted.
Katoa lost the Pukapuka-Nassau seat in the general election to CIP candidate Tingika Elikana by a final count of 130 votes to Elikana’s 143.
While Browne’s petition does not involve the disqualification of any electors, when asked what she thought of the apparent discrepancy between the final number of votes counted in Rakahanga and the number of registered electors, she said, “we might be adding this to our petition”.