Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2)

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Commentary

Recommendation

The Justice and Electoral Committee has examined the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) and recommends that it be passed with the amendments shown.

Introduction

This bill is the second of two implementing electoral reform. It seeks to amend the Electoral Act 1993 by transferring the powers and functions of the Chief Registrar of Electors to the Electoral Commission, begin the process of introducing online enrolment of electors, and implement amendments arising from the Government Response to the Report of the Justice and Electoral Committee on its Inquiry into the 2008 General Election.

Electoral administration reform implementation date

We recommend amending the commencement date in clause 2(1) for the transfer of the functions of the Chief Registrar of Electors to the Electoral Commission, to bring it forward from 1 October 2012 to 1 July 2012. The change in date would align the transfer with the beginning of the financial year and reduce reporting requirements and administrative costs. We understand that shortening the timeframe would not adversely affect the transfer process, and the agencies involved are confident that they could manage with a shorter implementation period. This change would require a number of consequential changes to clauses 21, 23, 30, 31, 33–39, and to the headings to subparts 2 of both Part 1 and Part 2.

Supply of information

We recommend inserting new clause 9A, which would amend section 111C(2)(b) of the Act, to allow the Chief Registrar of Electors to seek the consent of declared Māori electors to supply the Tūhono Trust with the electors’ email addresses and contact phone numbers. The Tūhono Trust is the body responsible for the running of the Māori Affiliation Service, which supplies iwi and other Māori organisations with certain electoral and iwi affiliation information of consenting Māori electors. We consider amending the bill to align the contact information that may be provided to the trust with modern technological advancements to be a sensible measure.

We also recommend inserting new clause 10A to amend section 114(2)(d) so that it would refer accurately to certain circumstances in which the Chief Registrar might supply electoral information to the Electoral Commission. While subpart 2 of Part 2 of the bill, clause 44(8)A, would on 1 July 2012 repeal section 114(2)(d), new clause 10A would ensure that before its repeal section 114(2)(d) of the Act referred to that function of the Electoral Commission accurately.

Use of electronic copies instead of paper copies

We also recommend adding proposed new section 124(5) to clause 14 to make it clear that an accurate scanned copy of an enrolment record could be used for the same purposes under the Act as the original paper copy.

Drafting amendments

We recommend changes to clause 44, and the insertion of new clause 46A, to add new, and refine existing, consequential amendments to provisions referring to the Chief Registrar, the Electoral Commission, or both. We also recommend that the Schedule be replaced so that three minor corrections, to yes and no boxes, to an instruction, and to a heading, could be made in the new enrolment Form 1 to be substituted.

We also recommend amending this bill to make a number of cross-referencing changes to the Act in order to align it with changes made by the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010. These changes to update cross-references are made by clauses 3A and 16A to 16D.

Appendix

Committee process

The Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) was referred to us on 23 November 2010. The closing date for submissions was 1 February 2011. We received and considered four submissions from interested groups and individuals. We heard two submissions.

We received advice from the Ministry of Justice.

Committee membership

Chester Borrows (Chairperson)

Jacinda Ardern (until 9 February 2011)

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

Carol Beaumont (from 9 February 2011)

Simon Bridges

Charles Chauvel (from 9 February 2011)

Dr Kennedy Graham

Hon Hekia Parata

Hon David Parker (until 9 February 2011)

Lynne Pillay (until 9 February 2011)

Paul Quinn

Carmel Sepuloni (from 9 February 2011)