The aim of the Chief Electoral Office (CEO) for the 2008 general election was to maintain public and political confidence in the administration of Parliamentary elections. This was achieved.
Voter research shows a high level of public satisfaction with the service provided to voters by the Chief Electoral Office. The vast majority use the EasyVote card when they vote, consider the time spent in the polling place reasonable, find the ballot paper straightforward, and are satisfied with the timeliness of the results.
Improving training for Returning Officers and their staff was a key focus for 2008. Voters were very positive about politeness, efficiency and knowledge of staff.
Service to voters with disabilities
One of the CEO‟s priorities for the 2008 election was to improve its service to voters with disabilities and reduce their barriers to voting. Initiatives such as „The Easy Guide to Voting‟ and the sign language DVD were well received.
There was a 3% increase in the number of people voting in 2008 over 2005 (2,376,480 compared to 2,304,005) but overall turnout as a percentage of enrolled voters was slightly down (79.5% compared to 80.9%) and turnout of those on the Māori roll was down (62.4% compared to 67.1%).
One of the CEO‟s priorities was to improve its service to advance voters. Overall advance voting went well. However, currently New Zealanders must complete a declaration establishing a ground of eligibility to be able to vote in advance. This makes the advance voting process more complex and longer for voters. Consideration should be given to whether this requirement is still necessary.
Training of field staff
Substantially more training was provided to Returning Officers and their staff. Core training to Returning Officers and their operations and human resources managers was delivered at a temporary model electorate headquarters which allowed a more realistic hands-on training experience to be delivered than for previous elections. The length of training sessions for election day staff was significantly increased to better accommodate the material to be covered.
Feedback on the training from staff at all levels was positive. However, whilst a considerable improvement on 2005, there was still too much material to cover in the time available. Training remains a key area of attention for 2011.
Electoral Finance Act
The CEO was responsible for administering those parts of the Electoral Finance Act 2007 that related to electorate candidates. It published guidance for candidates immediately after the enactment of the legislation in December 2007 and updated guidance in June 2008. The CEO would provide a view on request to candidates and parties about the interpretation of the legislation or its application to particular facts. The CEO was always careful to make clear that this was the CEO‟s view only and that a Court might reach a different conclusion.
The CEO is reviewing its processes, procedures, forms, manuals and public information to improve its services to voters.
The Chief Electoral Office is preparing to conduct the citizens initiated referendum by post to be held between 31 July and 21 August on the question : “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”
Some election statistics are included in the body and the annexes of this report (a list of Annexes is at page 20). Complete statistics can be found in the Enrolment and Voting Statistics for the 2008 General Election (E9) tabled in the House of Representatives on 12 February and on the website www.electionresults.govt.nz.