Mojo Mathers

Voting against new barrier to voting

by Mojo Mathers

The Green Party takes electoral reform very seriously. An electoral system that is robust, democratic and fair means everyone can have confidence in our parliament and our democracy.

Today we stood up for a fair electoral system by voting against the Electoral Amendment Bill, which sought to make some changes to the Electoral Act in time for this years’ election.

It wasn’t an easy decision, and even though there are a number of aspects of the bill that we are in favour of, we could not support the bill as a whole.

That is because of a new requirement on voters, introduced at select committee, which now means voters must verbally confirm their identity to polling booth staff.

Requiring voters to verbally confirm their identity is discriminatory, especially for those who use New Zealand Sign Language, are hard of hearing, have a speech impediment, and for those for whom English is a second language.

Asking voters to identify themselves could increase the barriers to voting for some New Zealanders, often for the populations for whom we should be making voting as easy as possible.

The bill does say that if you can’t verbally communicate, then you may do so with a ‘gesture’ or with the assistance of someone they’ve brought along to the polling booth with them. These suggestions are not sufficient to address the problems with this change.

The potential to be misunderstood is high, and voters should not be required to have a support person. It means that many voters may no longer be able to cast an independent vote, which is contrary to our fundamental rights.

We are very disappointed that, despite attempts by myself and Labour MP Maryan Street, the Government chose not to address our concerns and left this clause in the bill.

We will continue to stand up for fair, accessible elections, and stand up against any steps that make it harder for anyone to vote.

To find out more, you can watch or read the Green Party’s speeches on this bill today:

Published in Justice & Democracy by Mojo Mathers on Tue, March 18th, 2014   

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