The cost of the supplied election pens to taxpayers revealed

Author
Luke Kirkness, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Oct 2020, 4:15PM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

The cost of the supplied election pens to taxpayers revealed

Author
Luke Kirkness, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Oct 2020, 4:15PM

Taxpayers footed a bill of more than $730,000 for the single-use ballot pens used during this year's historic election.

Over fears sharing pens at voting booths could increase possible transmission of Covid-19, 3.6 million pens were supplied by the Electoral Commission.

The plastic 14cm pens, that came without any messaging or even a cap, were made in China and freight cost $284,000 to bring them to New Zealand.

Each pen cost about $0.125 to make, with the total cost of all the pens coming to a total of $450,000. Excluding GST, the combined cost was $734,000.

The entire budget of the Commission, an independent Crown entity set up by Parliament, is taxpayer-funded.

There were 3.5 million people enrolled to vote but the Commission opted to order an extra 100,000 as a buffer, a spokesman told the Herald.

In previous elections, a pen has been connected to voting booths by a piece of string but they were not available this year.

The pens were supplied due to the impact of Covid-19, with people also encouraged to bring their own along with them when voting.

A range of other measures was put in place to try and minimise the risk of the virus, including QR code scanning and hand sanitising upon entry.

Supplied-pen users had the option of leaving them behind at the voting area in a box designated to collect them or they could take them home.

Any leftover pens will be given to schools, charities, and community organisations, the Commission spokesperson said.

‌However, it will not be known how many pens were used during the election as the pens will be distributed directly from voting stations.

The Commission placed an order for 2 million pens in May, followed by a second order for 1.6 million in September.

"We investigated local manufacturers (and indeed Australasian manufacturers), but none could supply the pens in the quantities, and within the timeframes, required," the Commission spokesman said.

"The only manufacturers that could do so were in China."