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Special votes – what you need to know

Published: 18 October 2019

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Special votes – what you need to know

This year more than 6,000 people took advantage of the special voting option in Auckland’s local elections. That’s fifty per cent more than in the 2016 elections when the electoral officer’s team processed around 4,000 special votes.

We asked electoral officer Dale Ofsoske to explain what a special vote is and what goes into processing them.

“Any person that has not received an ordinary voting pack and believes they’re eligible to vote can go through the special voting process.

“There are all sorts of reasons why a person might not have received a voting pack – ranging from not being enrolled to a change of address, their papers being damaged or accidentally destroyed, to papers simply not arriving.

“With ordinary votes, we’re able to scan the envelope to validate voter participation and then, to protect the anonymity of the actual votes inside, we separate the envelope and papers before counting.

“Special votes are somewhat more cumbersome to process, to ensure that we validate people’s information and eligibility to vote, before we add their votes to the general tally,” says Dale.

A special vote is made up of two envelopes – the outer envelope contains the person’s statutory declaration and the inner envelope holds the voting papers.

First, the electoral team checks that the statutory declaration is in order. This includes making sure it is signed and witnessed, and that the person is on the electoral roll (which requires checking by the Electoral Commission).

“The checking and validating of the statutory declaration process includes a number of vital steps that are required by law and involve us working with the Electoral Commission to check and double-check electoral roll details,” says Dale.

The Electoral Commission will then confirm whether the voter is ‘qualified’ to vote, or not.

Voters must enroll on the electoral roll in advance of local elections (this year the cut off for the printed roll, and to receive voting papers by post, was in August) however, ‘One Stop Shops’ offered enrolling and voting on the spot.

“The last ‘special’ step is to check that the voter hasn’t already voted before we begin opening the special votes and processing (or counting) them as we would with ordinary votes,” says Dale.

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