Under the Influence

Auckland's early elections were especially notorious for drunkenness and corruption.

In 1855, one candidate's committee room was described as 'nothing better than a chistory-chch-1930s_0.jpgommon drinking booth a regular tippling-shop', where 'half-intoxicated men were seen either reeling out of their own accord, or being dragged to record their votes at the poll'.

Another was said to have 'rolled a hogshead of rum into the street with his own hands, and invited the electors to fall in'. So much free grog was distributed in the military Pensioner Settlements electorate that, according to one observer, 'one pensioner is already dead, and another dying' from overindulgence.

There were also frequent allegations of 'treating' (where candidates provided free alcohol or food to entice electors to vote for them), bribery and intimidation of electors.

In addition, some electoral rolls were inaccurate or bloated with out-of-date or false entries. This made it easy for unscrupulous electors to impersonate others and vote twice.

Often, however, early parliamentary elections attracted little attention, especially in rural areas. Even the largest electorates usually only had one or two polling booths. Sometimes settlers needed to travel on horseback for a day to cast their votes. Not surprisingly, many didn't bother.

Did you know?

Until 1938 elections in New Zealand were always held on weekdays. That year, and again in 1943, voting was held on Saturday, but in 1946 and 1949 it reverted to Wednesday. It wasn't until 1950 that the law was changed to make all elections take place on Saturdays.

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Last updated: 15 February 2013