- Voters can enrol to vote and cast a “special vote” in the general election without having to provide ID.
- Some safeguards prevent people voting under the same name twice or voting without being enrolled.
- But how safe is the system if you can enrol under a false name and address?
- Special votes are gaining importance and historically favour the left.
Special votes – No ID? No problem
The lack of any ID required to enrol and cast a vote is concerning.
Special votes are defined as votes cast by a voter who is unable to cast an ordinary vote, including those who are overseas, or who are voting outside their electorate (counted as party-only votes), or who are not on the printed roll for their electorate.
Do special votes present a loophope in election security?
There is no ID requirement on the part of the voter to either enrol for the vote or to cast a vote. As long as the person is enrolled to vote (and hasn’t voted more than once under the same name), there appears to be little chance their vote will be disqualified.
That means someone can show up on election day without ID, enrol to vote and cast a vote all in the same go.
So while there are safeguards in place to ensure people who vote are enrolled, the lack of any ID requirements makes it appear there’s little to stop a person from enrolling under a false name and address.
Of course there are laws to penalise a person should they engage in voter fraud, but if no ID is required to enrol or vote, then it may be far more difficult to detect fraud in the first place. And harder to catch someone as well.
How are special votes counted?
All votes are counted by hand. Preliminary results are released on election night. Special votes are counted up to 10 days after the night and included in the final official count released about three weeks afterwards.
There’s an increasing number of special votes and they tend to favour the left
2020 was the first year to allow for election day enrollment. The loosening of enrollment was brought in to encourage voting. Special votes typically favour left-leaning parties. They made up about 15% of the total vote in 2017 and increased to at least 17% (over 504,000 votes) of the 2020 vote total during the COVID election.
Special votes have cost National two seats in each election since 2014.
In a tight election, it can make all the difference. There are seats that have been lost by less than two hundred votes.
There are even reports that special votes eating into National’s seat count was part of the consideration that led Winston Peters and NZ First to decide on a coalition with Labour in the 2017 election.
Former election officer raises concerns
NZ News Essentials spoke with a former election officer involved in the 2020 election. The person confirmed that no ID was required to register people to vote.
“People would bring in -if they were honest- envelopes addressed to dead family members or family members who were overseas – and say this person is gone, etc. And that would obviously go back to the electoral commission to update their records.
But there was nothing to stop anyone identifying as that person and voting for them. We were not required to check any ID at all. If someone turns up and their name is not on the electoral roll, they can then do a special vote. And register there and then with no ID,” the former officer said.
Why should it require less ID to vote than get into a bar?