Archive for August 20th, 2020


Voting, and the Virus

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – As of August 20, the World Health Organization reports 22,536,278 cases of COVID-19 in the world. Of that, 5,511,793 cases are in the United States, a number which amounts to one quarter, that is 25% of the worldwide total. In case you’re wondering, the population of the United States is 5% of the world population. Just saying.

I find it difficult to keep up with the current hoopla about “who is doing what when” with regard to decisions about managing a pandemic on local ground; and even more hoopla about “how to have a secure vote” with regard to the upcoming presidential election. So the recent announcement about New Zealand’s decision to postpone a national election due to an upsurge in COVID-19 cases really caught my eye.

Action in New Zealand

On Monday, August 17 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand announced that the September national election would be delayed by four weeks as new virus cases spread across Auckland, making it difficult to campaign. Prime Minister Ardern, who has the sole authority to determine when people cast ballots, said she had consulted with all the major parties before delaying the vote, originally scheduled for September 19, to October 17. Ms Ardern called the decision a compromise that “provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we could be campaigning under, for the electoral commission to prepare, and for voters to feel assured of a safe, accessible and critical election.”

The shift keeps Election Day within the time frame allowed under the law — the latest possible date is November 21 — but it also highlights the national concern as a cluster of at least 58 new cases frustrates investigators, clears the streets of Auckland and suspends scheduled campaign events. Pressure on Ms Ardern and her Labour Party to change the date had been building over several days. A poll taken over the weekend showed that 60 percent of New Zealanders favored a delay. The leaders of other major parties also argued that the Level 3 lockdown in Auckland, the country’s largest city, prevented campaigning and would have made a free and fair election impossible on the original date.

I noted earlier, when on my NDI RTW visit to New Zealand, that their voting process is quite different from the US, where campaigning begins early and the media races to outdo itself by predicting, and announcing, results “before midnight.” I still recall my frustration in Seattle one year when I headed for the polls after work, only to hear “the winner declared” on the car radio. With our current Cell Phone Mentality, it’s a second-by-second race to get ahead of the game. I call it blather. Just saying.

From the New Zealand Electoral Commission webpage, I see today’s schedule for their 2020 General Election.

  • Monday 17 August: Prime Minister announces new dates for the 2020 General Election
  • Tuesday 18 August: Regulated period for election advertising expenses begins
  • Sunday 6 September: Parliament dissolves
  • Sunday 13 September: Writ Day – the Governor General formally directs us to hold the Election
  • Thursday 17 September noon: Deadline for party secretaries to get their bulk nomination schedules and the party lists to us
  • Friday 18 September noon: Deadline for electorate candidates to get their individual nomination forms to us
  • Wednesday 30 September: Overseas voting starts
  • Saturday 3 October: Advance voting starts
  • Friday 16 October: Advance voting ends
  • Friday 16 October midnight: The regulated period ends. All election and referendum advertising must end. Signs must be taken down by midnight.
  • Saturday 17 October: Election day. Voters can vote from 9am to 7pm
  • We’ll start releasing preliminary election results from 7pm on
  • We won’t count referendum votes on election night
  • Friday 30 October: We release the preliminary results for the referendums
  • Friday 6 November: We declare the official results for the general election and referendums
  • Thursday 12 November: Last day for the return of the writ

Easy peasy. Sit back and have a cup of tea. So, what will Ms Arden and the New Zealand government DO during this “delayed election” time? They will focus primarily on the virus. Health officials in New Zealand are scrambling to test thousands of workers at airports and other points of entry, along with quarantine facilities and a frozen food warehouse, to try to determine how the virus re-emerged last week.

New Zealand’s election is far from the first to be postponed because of the pandemic. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems reports as of  08/20/2020 that 64 countries and eight territories have postponed a total of 109 election events due to COVID-19, ranging from local municipal elections to parliamentary and national events. The idea of delaying the US general election was floated by President Donald Trump, but it was shut down by members of Congress and his own party.

Everything you need to know about voting in New Zealand

Everything you need to know about voting in United States