In October 2014, Cabinet decided to hold postal referendums on the New Zealand flag in November 2015 and in early 2016.
The Electoral Commission (the Commission) had responsibility for the delivery of both referendums and these were conducted smoothly and within budget, with all statutory deadlines being met.
The preliminary results for the first referendum were reported after the close of voting on 11 December 2015 and the official results were declared on 15 December 2015. 3,170,726 voting papers were posted to enrolled voters and 1,546,734 votes were returned (a 48.78% turnout).
The preliminary results for the second referendum were reported after the close of voting on 24 March 2015 and the official results were declared on 30 March 2016. 3,158,576 voting papers were posted to enrolled voters and 2,140,895 votes were returned (a 67.80% turnout).
Conducting two nation-wide postal referendums in quick succession was a major logistical exercise. The period between the Cabinet decision to hold the referendums and the close of the preliminary roll for the first referendum was just 11 months and the first and second flag referendums were held within four months of each other. The Commission’s systems development and testing and other preparations were challenging. This was because of the short timeframes, the fact each referendum was to be conducted using a different voting system, that preparations needed to precede the finalisation of the legislation and that there were late changes to the form of the first voting paper. These challenges were all successfully managed.
In this report, the Commission identifies ways to improve the conduct of future postal referendums including recommendations regarding enrolment, overseas voting, vote issuing, and voter education.