2020 election: Justice Minister proposes changes to ballot locations, enrolment

The Justice Minister has proposed additional locations where you'd be able vote in the 2020 general election, including supermarkets and malls. 

Andrew Little, the Justice Minister, said he's submitted the proposed changes to the Justice Select Committee, including an amendment that would also allow voters to enrol on Election Day. 

The changes would also make it easier for New Zealanders to vote from overseas, and "strengthen measures to protect the electoral process in the event of a significant emergency or natural disaster". 

But the proposals haven't gone down well with National's Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith, who said the changes would "defy conventions". 

He also questioned the policy proposing to make it easier for New Zealanders to vote from overseas, saying National "does not know the detail". 

Little said on Thursday: "New Zealanders deserve to have their votes counted. Nearly half of voters are now exercising their right to vote prior to Election Day.

"Those early voters are able to both enrol and vote at the ballot box. It's only fair that people who vote on Election Day have the same right to enrol as those casting an early vote."

Justice Minister Andrew Little.
Justice Minister Andrew Little. Photo credit: Getty

Little said changes were recommended by the Election Commission, and the Government has agreed to them. He said putting ballot boxes in supermarkets and malls will make voting easier for people. 

"It's important that ballot boxes are placed where people are going about their normal business and can therefore accommodate voting more easily into their busy lives."

Smith criticised Little for not consulting National. He said in a statement: "This is the sort of conduct we expect from banana republics and not a respected long standing democracy like New Zealand."

He said the National Party consulted all parties on government electoral law changes before Cabinet decisions were made under previous Bolger/Shipley and Key/English governments. 

National's Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith.
National's Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith. Photo credit: Getty

"We only found out these Cabinet decisions through questioning at today's estimates hearing on the Budget highlighting the sneaky process by which they are being advanced."

Smith said National has been exploring the need to entrench the Electoral Act requiring a super-majority in Parliament or referendum to make changes.

"Today's announcement reinforces the need for this sort of reform."

The Greens have welcomed the proposals. 

The Green Party's Electoral Issues spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman claimed it would "strengthen democracy". 

"At the last election around 19,000 voters attempted to cast their vote on Election Day but were not enrolled to vote," she said on Thursday. 

"This cohort, which is larger than the population of Queenstown, demonstrated a willingness to engage in our democratic process and should have been able to vote on the day."