The New Zealand Law Society
has voiced its concern about changes to the electoral legislation which it deems rushed through without reasonable opportunity for public input.
In a submission on the Electoral Amendment Bill to the Justice and Electoral select committee, the Law Society said the “very short public consultation period” which was only nine days “meant it was not possible to properly analyse the bill and identify potential defects.”
“This is particularly unsatisfactory given the constitutional nature of the bill,” Law Society spokesperson David Cochrane said.
Though it addresses recommendations from the Electoral Commission’s report on the 2014 general election, the Law Society says there are some significant omissions.
“The Electoral Commission raised concerns in 2012 and again in 2015 about the adequacy of the legislative provisions for dealing with emergencies, and the Ministry of Justice
undertook some preliminary work in 2015, but this significant issue is not addressed in the bill,” said Cochrane.
“Another significant concern identified by the Electoral Commission is the increasing vulnerability of the technology underpinning New Zealand’s electoral system to security risks. The Law Society notes that New Zealand is increasingly subject to cyber-attack and there is no reason to assume the electoral system would be immune,” he added.
The Law Society has urged the select committee to seek confirmation that the replacement system will be in place for the 2017 general election, pointing out that the 2015 report of the commission said that development of a replacement for the current “legacy system” is underway.
Apart from not addressing key emergency provisions and technology concerns, the bill also introduced changes that brought about three other key concerns from the Law Society.
These concerns include what appears to be a significant advantage given to MPs over other candidates in respect of signage on MPs’ office and vehicle signage, the organisation noted.
“It’s not clear why a non-MP candidate who wants to provide contact information to intending voters should be discriminated against, which is the effect of the proposed change in the bill,” said Cochrane.
The Law Society is also questioning whether that change should apply to all candidates rather than only to MPs, and is recommending additional changes to address other problematic provisions in the bill.
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