Originally published by Māori Television
The Electoral Commission is under intense scrutiny over its decision to set up a polling booth at Manurewa Marae, where Te Pāti Māori candidate Takutai Moana Kemp is the CEO.
This issue is part of a larger probe into election conduct at the marae, in the wake of a tightly contested race in Tāmaki Makaurau, which saw Kemp secure victory over Labour MP Peeni Henare by just four votes — a stark contrast from the 495-vote lead Henare held on election night.
In an election rattled by revelations of ‘Data Entry Errors’ and their implications, Labour officially yesterday requested a recount in Tāmaki Makuarau.
Amidst the unfolding events, the Electoral Commission has provided Whakaata Māori with a guarded response to inquiries regarding their actions and the complaints lodged against the marae’s election activities.
They said they were looking into complaints, “we will confirm receipt if asked but we will not generally go into the details,”
Further adding to the contentious atmosphere, the Commission admitted, “We can confirm that we have received complaints about activities at the Manurewa Marae, including whether the provision of food could be considered treating.”
Treating, the act of offering goods or services to influence voters, carries a high burden of proof, requiring evidence of “a corrupt intention” to warrant legal action.
The controversy extends to the election infrastructure itself, with the Commission disclosing, “We have also received a complaint about the Electoral Commission’s use of the Manurewa Marae as a voting place.”
Under fire Chief electoral officer Karl Le Quesne fronting media over voting irregularities in the 2023 election, earlier this week. Photo / Angus Dreaver RNZ)
A Labour source that spoke to Whakaata Māori said the proximity of the voting location to an active candidate needed to raise questions about the integrity of the electoral process.
‘She’s the CEO of the marae, and the candidate? How does that work?’, he said.
While it is customary for a marae to offer kai as an expression of manaakitanga or hospitality, the issue under scrutiny should be the Electoral Commission’s decision to establish a polling station at the workplace of an electoral candidate, he added.
The legal framework governing Aotearoa-NZ’s elections is designed to prevent any form of influence that could be construed as unduly affecting voter decision-making.
The commission would likely seek legal review or advice from legal experts or the Crown Law Office to decide if using a polling station at a candidate’s place of work could be seen as a breach of these principles, potentially affecting the outcome of an incredibly close race.
The electoral commission have declined both to elaborate on the investigative process, or when it should hope to be completed.
The commission would make the ultimate decision what to do next, which if past decisions are anything to go by, could range from no action, if no wrongdoing is found, to disqualification of a candidate or a by-election if significant breaches occurred that could have affected the outcome.
The Electoral Commission is investigating if it was right to have a polling place at the workplace of the Tāmaki Makaurau Te Pāti Māori candidate, where she is CEO. Photo / Bevan Conley, NZME
The New Zealand Electoral Commission is battling controversies on multiple fronts, with the Manurewa Marae investigation adding to an already tumultuous post-election period.
The marae scrutiny comes in the wake of a recounts in several electorates across the motu, a measure taken after a New Zealand Herald investigation revealed discrepancies in vote counts.
The investigation found that votes intended for parties such as National and New Zealand First were allocated to others. In one notable instance, approximately 500 votes for National ended up attributed to a minor party candidate, with no chance of being elected.
The revelations have prompted incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to call for a comprehensive investigation, with the justice select committee set to conduct inquiries into the election’s integrity.
The Electoral Commission, however, stands firm on its stance that the errors in data entry, though regrettable, were not indicative of any malicious intent and did not alter the overall outcome of the election.
They emphasize that the vote misallocations were isolated incidents and that the integrity of the electoral process remains intact.
-Will Trafford, Whakaata Māori
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