General policy statement
This Bill amends the Electoral Act 1993 (the Act) to allow unregistered voters to register by completing a special vote and so ensure that their votes are counted.
For various reasons an elector may choose to complete a special vote, which involves submitting their details and signing a statutory declaration in front of a witness, unaware that they are not enrolled to vote. In this case, the elector will receive a letter from the Electoral Commission (the commission) advising them that their vote did not count, and requesting that they now enrol by submitting the same details they provided when they cast their special vote. Not only has their vote been disallowed, but an opportunity to engage the elector in the political process has been lost. The elector must also duplicate paperwork necessary for their enrolment.
There were 328,029 special votes cast in 2014. Of the special votes cast in 2014, 27,447 were disallowed because the voter was not enrolled at all. An analysis of the Te Tai Tokerau judicial recount indicated that some voters whose votes had been disallowed because they were not enrolled had completed special vote declarations at previous elections. The commission surmises that these voters thought that completing a special vote declaration would mean they would be enrolled.
With both enrolment and voting now being delivered by a single agency and because both forms require similar details from the elector, the commission suggests legislative change that enables a special vote to be treated as an application to enrol or update details. This will also serve to streamline the enrolment and voting process during the advance voting period.