Conspiracy theories claiming US voting software rigged NZ election debunked - AFP fact-check

Claims that a company at the centre of voter fraud conspiracies in the United States had meddled in New Zealand's election have been debunked in a fact-check article by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Dominion Voting Systems Corporation, a company specialising in electronic voting hardware and software, has been embroiled in conspiracy theories and false allegations of voter fraud - propagated by outgoing President Donald Trump - amid the ongoing fallout of the US election. 

Headquartered in Toronto, Canada and Denver, Colorado, Dominion Voting Systems sells the likes of voting machines and tabulators across both the US and Canada, as well as to international clients.

More recently, multiple posts shared to social media have suggested that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was not legitimately elected in last year's general election, alleging that the US-based election technology supplier had rigged the results. 

Ardern's landslide victory in October guaranteed her Labour Government the power to govern alone without the need for a coalition, a feat not achieved in decades. The party secured 64 seats in the 120-member Parliament, obtaining an unprecedented 49 percent of the vote.

The Facebook post featured a doctored image of Ardern from the night of the election, claiming that "Dominion Voting fraud" had ensured the Prime Minister's second term.

One post shared by a New Zealand-based user propagating the claims.
One post shared by a New Zealand-based user propagating the claims. Photo credit: Facebook via AFP

However, the AFP fact-check, released on Tuesday, debunked the theories as "misleading".

In an email, the New Zealand Electoral Commission confirmed to AFP that it does not use machines or software from Dominion Voting Systems. 

"In New Zealand, votes in Parliamentary elections are counted by hand. We do not use machines to count votes at general elections, including the 2020 election," the Electoral Commission told AFP in the email, dated January 11.

Once the votes are counted, the results are recorded manually and entered into the Election Management System, which produces the official results for the election, the Electoral Commission explained.

"The Election Management System was developed in New Zealand and regularly undergoes independent security testing and certification."

The system, which is owned and maintained by the Commission, was developed by the local company Catalyst, who also provide technical support.

AFP has previously debunked conspiracy theories connected to Dominion, including claims that the Christmas Day explosion in Nashville was linked to an audit being conducted on the company, and an image showing an employee improperly storing voting data.