Losing candidate says 'free and fair' local elections can't be assured, taking legal action against voting system

Legal action is being taken over the recent local body elections, with claims the integrity of the system is flawed due to interference by activists. 

The case, which has just been filed at the Auckland District Court, is disputing the results of a single ward in Auckland. But those behind it say it'll be a "test case" for the country.

You could call it a David versus Goliath battle.

Local body candidate Will McKenzie is taking on the local election system after losing the race to become the Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa Ward councillor.

"It's literally one of the worst things I've ever had to go through," McKenzie said.

The lawyer thought he was a shoo-in to represent his ward on the Auckland Council.

"It was very difficult because you'd been told that you'd won and then you're told there's been a swing on the last day.

This is the possible explanation for it, it makes you feel not confident in the system," McKenzie said.

And it's his lack of confidence in the postal voting system that has led him to file a petition. This will trigger an inquiry at the Auckland District Court into the ward's election.

"When you look at the system, you realise, well the system can't assure you it's a free and fair election," McKenzie said.

The filing claims that, under the current system, there is no way to identify who filled out the voting paper, a risk of other people filling out those documents, a risk political activists could influence voters or collect documents on other people's behalf and a risk of votes then not being delivered. 

"I've seen voting papers drifting down the road on the North Shore, I've seen them hanging out of letterboxes in different parts of Auckland and it's just a real concern," McKenzie's lawyer Brian Henry said.

Henry believes the postal voting system did not ensure the integrity of the election. 

"I think the whole of the Auckland ballot is wrong, it's just not got the right methods or processes," he said. "It's a test case 'cause we'll know for three years' time how to do it properly."

Dale Ofsoske is the man in charge of Auckland's voting process and is named as a respondent in the petition. 

He told Newshub he's been in touch with the Council about the Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa Ward election petition and while he can't comment on active court proceedings, he said "we are both taking the matter seriously".

"This is a test case and a really important one to take and we're really looking forward to improving the voting system so next time nobody is left in any doubt about what happened," McKenzie said.

The inquiry will start within two weeks.