Thursday, June 26, 2008

Government pretty much decided on postal smacking referendum months ago

note:this post has been updated
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Robert Peden, has advised the Government that he would prefer that any Citizens Initiated Referenda be conducted by postal vote in 2009 in accordance with the Referenda (Postal Voting) Act 2000. He wasn't given an opportunity by the Government to recommend a postal vote this year.

The Government announced in parliament today that the advice is to be accepted. What it didn't say was that the advice was given to the Government on 17 March - more than three months ago - requesting that a Cabinet decision be made by mid April, two months before the petition was delivered to Parliament. I got the briefing paper emailed to me this afternoon, but due to work commitments, was unable to read it until tonight. But I found it online here [DOC].

The primary reason that the CEO recommended a postal ballot was because he didn't want to do an electoral referendum because he thought it would be too much hard work.

He didn't want the additional administrative challenges of an electoral referendum on top of organising an election, including staff training, and he hadn't got around to arranging the testing the enhancements of the Election Management System. And given that the CEO is not funded to undertake citizen initiated referenda, he hadn't applied for additional funding should the petitions be successful, nor did he appear to want to. It is noted that it cost up to $2.2m more to fund a referenda by postal vote.

Another reason for recommending a postal ballot was because of delays in the two 1999 CIR - delays in part caused by not having distinct colours for each referendum voting paper, meaning the sorting was a lot of hard work. In other words, they didn't get their act together last time and don't want to repeat the process in case they screw up again.

All this can be fixed - its just that the Chief Electoral Officer doesn't want to fix it because doing a postal ballot is a lot easier - it will also mean a reduced response rate,so an electoral referendum could be said to be more democratic.

Yet there is absolutely no reason apart from political pettiness why a postal ballot or an electoral referendum cannot be conducted this year. In fact Parliament could, if it so chooses, vote on a resolution requiring the voting period for a postal ballot to close on Election Day.

If John Key really prefers an election day referendum, lets see his party put forward the resolution if his words are not hollow politicking.

UPDATE Apparently the Chief Electoral Office has been discussing what to do regarding the referendums since late last year and the idea of a 2009 postal referendum appears to have been floated at that time. If so, the briefing is the formal advice of these initial discussions and it means that Larry Baldock and Cheryl Savill, if they were hoping to have referenda at the election, were effectively scuttled before they even got their petition presented the first time - as the Government appears to have informally decided back in 2007 that it did not want an electoral referendum - or a 2008 postal referendum - way back then.If so, the decision was based on politics, not on pragmatism or democracy. In other words, it was rigged.

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Blogger Steve Withers said...

Bad enough there were sufficient silly people loose on the streets unsupervised to sign the petition and trigger a referendum at all.

That alone is a disgrace.

Keep the thing well away from the election.

The law change removed the legal defense people could employ to justify lip-swelling, eye-blackening, ear-drum-popping assaults on their children.

No parents who smacks a child's hand or spanks their bottom is going to be prosecuted. The law makes that VERY clear....if the folk who signed this had bothered to actually read it.

June 26, 2008 at 1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well written Dave. Right on the button. Democracy can be hard work but we should never turn our back on it. By the way, a law doesn't have to actually catch people to prove it's still a bad law. This is a bad law - convictions or no convictions.

June 26, 2008 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Steve Withers said...

Re the update. The government gets to decide when the referendum will be. The only thing the government MUST do is hold the referendum within the time its discretion. That's the way this law has always been. If it was "rigged", it was rigged by the Government of the day who put it forward and passed it.

June 27, 2008 at 2:41 AM  
Blogger Swimming said...

Then how come that electoral authorities were not given an option of a 2007 referendum - electoral or postal. Could it be that pre briefing discussions WAS that decision you referred to, and the briefing merely rubber stamped it. The law makes no provision that such decisions must be made before the petition is presented to parliament - as was clearly the case here. Electoral authorities had decided to ask for the briefing to be formalised by cabinet at least two months before the first petition was presented to parliament.

June 27, 2008 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Steve Withers said...

dave: There was no point whatever in discussing a 2007 referendum when the petition seeking the referendum had no show being coplete before well into 2008.

They still have not been verified as having enough signatures, as far as I know. In any case, it's far too late for a 2007 referendum. ;-)

June 28, 2008 at 11:14 PM  

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