Thursday, October 15, 2020

General Election

This Saturday is election day in New Zealand. As I don’t believe in salvation by political power, I am not that worried about the outcome, except as a sign of where the heart of the nation is at.

One good thing about the election here is that there is almost no potential for fraud or election rigging. In New Zealand the election process kept well away from politicians and political parties, so they are not able to fiddle with the results. Instead, it is managed by a crown entity called the Electoral Commission, which means we work independently from government. The commission is operated by faceless bureaucrats who are committed to operating fair elections, regardless of the outcome (they don’t put their photos on the voting website).

The staff of this organisation tend to be middle-aged, middle class people (mostly women). The nature of the work seems to attract careful, conscientious people, who love to operate in a rules-based environment.

The electoral commission manages the registration and funding of political parties, registration of voters, the process for voting, and the counting of votes. Each of these processes has built in scrutiny and checks to ensure that fraud does not occur. Large donations to political parties have to be declared.

When New Zealanders go to vote this week, some will worry about who will be the winner, but no one is worried that ballot boxes will be stuffed or stolen, that votes will be lost, or eligible people will be prevented from voting. No one is worrying that the election might be stolen.

The contrast with US presidential election is stark. Looking from here, it seems bizarre that people on both sides of the fence in the United States are worried that the presidential election will be stolen. It is odd that political leaders are so heavily involved in the election process and that it can be distorted for political benefit. It seems unusual that the voting process in each state varies according to which party is in power. This is what you would expect in a third-world country, not a rich Christian nation.

Successive US governments have condemned elections in other nations for being unfair, so it is strange that their own people are worried that their presidential election will not be fair. This seems like a case of the pot calling the kettle black. If the US wants to be taken seriously as a champion of democracy, it needs to get its election house in order. The system that operates in New Zealand shows that it is not that hard to do, if there is political will to do it.

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