Mahuta responds to local election law controversies

By Te Ao - Māori News

Local government minister Nanaia Mahuta issued a press statement about her plans to tackle the local election laws that saw a councillor lose her seat, after being sworn in.

The Murupara-Galatea ward election this October ended with veteran broadcaster Hinerangi Goodman and incumbent Alison Silcock being tied. The tie was settled, as per the current laws, by pulling the winner's name out of a hat. Goodman was then declared the winner.

Silcock then conceded to Goodman while applying for a judicial recount. Goodman was sworn in, and then after the judicial recount was completed, lost her seat.

“In my view, the swearing in of a newly elected member should, as far as possible, be the final step in the election process, and it should occur only after any disputes about electoral outcomes have been resolved,” Minister Mahuta says.

Mahuta acknowledged the difficulties that arose from this controversial election and the effects that followed.

“My proposal is that if there is a tied result, there should automatically be a recount. This is what occurs for parliamentary elections. This change would mean that any coin toss would only take place if the District Court confirmed that the result is a tie,” she says.

Mahuta went further, looking at other local election law issues as well.

“I will also consider whether an automatic recount should be triggered for elections where the winning margin is very small.”

If implemented, Mahuta’s changes should improve the local electoral law processes.

“The proposed changes will provide everyone with a lot more certainty and avoid the distress when a candidate sworn in as an elected member finds their position revoked through no fault of their own.”