So, today I enrolled to vote and subsequently voted. Took all of five minutes. And it required no ID whatsoever. That, my friends, is how a democracy should work.

Having been overseas for a year in the build-up to a general election, the Electoral Commission had tried to get in contact with me at my old address. When I failed to confirm my details (due to the fact I was in Romania and not residing in Grey Lynn, Auckland) my registration elapsed. As such, I returned to Aotearoa as someone who wanted to vote but had to go and register as a voter to do so.

Now, I could have enrolled to vote in Romania via the post (if I had been at home I could have done it online), but as I knew I would be back at least a week before the election, I decided I'd enrol in person. It would be cheaper (no envelope or stamps) and faster (no waiting on the post).

Enrolling to vote this close to an election isn't difficult; you can enrol to vote right up to the day before the election. In my case it was easiest to go to an advance voting/polling station. These are many and designed to be easy to get to; mine was literally a five minute walk from Mum's house. I entered, said I need to enrol and was given a form. I entered my name, my birth date, my current address and the address where I was last enrolled and, without much fanfare, I was enrolled. Didn't even need to show any ID.

Now, because I was enrolling a week before the election I had the option to either vote straight away (because you can advance vote two weeks before polling day) or vote on the day. I chose to vote immediately because I will likely be out-of-district on election day and thus would have to cast a special vote regardless. Special votes are votes which either get cast outside your electorate or cast before polling day. They get counted slightly differently from other, 'normal' votes; if I voted on polling day in my electorate my name would be crossed off the list when I cast my vote. A special vote gets counted after the non-special votes are counted; basically each booth checks with the others to make sure the person who cast the special vote hasn't voted elsewhere.

Casting a special vote requires another form. It's not a complicated process; it's just name, birth date and address. Said form gets popped into a sealed envelope and then you get given your voting papers. Fill that out, pop into the other half of the sealed envelope, and drop it into the special votes box.

Time taken for this process: less than give minutes. Had I already been enrolled it would have taken half the time, and had I voted on polling day it would take less than a minute. Maybe three if there was a queue.

Why am I posting this? Because a feature of certain U.S. conspiracy theories is talk of voter fraud or voter suppression. The U.S. has rules and barriers designed to combat or aid this (depending on who is speaking) and, frankly, voting seems like much more of an ordeal or piece of rigamarole in the U.S. than it need be. We have very little to almost no voter fraud in our system, and we have little to no barriers to enrol and vote. There's no ID required. We weed out fraudulent voters via the general or Māori roll and by counting special votes separately after the rest of the votes have been tallied. It is not difficult. Indeed, the lack of difficulty in our system makes voting easy, fast (no one queues for more than about fifteen minutes to cast their vote on the day) and—due to the protections built in to both voting and voter registration—pretty much fraud free. Democracy can be remarkably simple.

Just like politicians.

I'll fetch me coat.


Lee Basham says:

An attempt at humor, I suppose.

“pretty much”.



Lee Basham says:

You write,

“We have very little to almost no voter fraud in our system, and we have little to no barriers to enrol and vote. There’s no ID required. We weed out fraudulent voters via the general or Māori roll and by counting special votes separately after the rest of the votes have been tallied”

The US concern is driven by mass illegal immigration and the tendency of our travelers to vote for that candidate that supports their staying, or against that candidate that supports their deportation. So the analogy, and your no ID standard–seemingly scolding– is rather hopeless in the US, as NZ does not enjoy massive illegal immigration (I presume). The philosophically interesting question is, instead, “who should vote”.

Why not all cohabitants?

You cautiously avoid this question with talk of “rolls” that are somehow used to remove “false voters”. This either occurs at the point of voting, or after casting is done. If the former, then at least testimony is required; “name, please” and roll check. If after the fact, and I suppose after the fact in many cases, and so in secret, then this is an odd and perilous system indeed–unless, of course, there is no statistically relevant opportunity for voter fraud, because little statistically significant illegal immigration. A you claim in NZ.

If, however, illegal immigration is statistically significant in NZ, then you will face the very same problem of legitimate cross checking (a serious and perilous trust problem) and hence, once recognized, of counting illegal votes. Since we should be skeptical of back-door counting via “rolls” (see the Bush Florida count), we might want to do this up front. On the assumption some political designation of “adequate to vote” identity is a necessary condition to vote in NZ. A rather ordinary assumption. The failure to do this is naturally fertile ground for fairly obvious CTs.

Whatever democracy “as it should be” is, it must be contexted to the place it occurs. I don’t like voter ID laws, but we can’t dodge the question with mere idealisms and amusing if disconnected “as it should be”s.

Who should vote? That’s where the action is. Why any limits? If you embrace them, what would a solution adequate to the context of the US be. To analogize the NZ to the US is, well, as you well know, if pleasant, fairly insane.


Hold on; isn’t “the tendency of our travelers to vote for that candidate that supports their staying, or against that candidate that supports their deportation” a highly contentious statement. After all, the Richmond study, et al. have found little evidence of voter fraud. Certainly, the fear of illegal immigrants voting might drive voter ID laws, but the fear of WMDs in Iraq drove an unnecessary war. Some fears just aren’t worth taking seriously.

And yes, we have little worry about illegal immigration here, mostly due to our geographical position. However, one could worry about non-resident voters (residents and citizens can vote here) from the countries/areas we have open borders with (Australia, the Pacific and most of Melanesia) who might live and work here despite not being resident (although the pathway for residency in those cases is pretty easy). But that’s mopped up by the roll; you need to specify your current address and, if you have not lived there for more than two years, previous addresses. If you can’t do that, then the people at the Electoral Commission will go through a process to check your immigration status.

As for our process; there’s nothing mysterious about the commission or electoral roll here. The roll, for example, is a publicly available document which can be examined at any post office (it’s not online because a) the law which established it has not been updated for the digital age and b) the law has not been updated because we’re still trying to sort out a system by which predatory advertisers won’t just scrape data from the roll to pester people), and the process of inspecting the roll is done both by the Electoral Commission and by the public. There’s no secrecy involved; indeed, as a member of the public you can do an awful lot to inspect the vote after a local and general election, right down to contacting individual voters directly.

So, yes, maybe analogies between the US and Aotearoa are complex, but I think it’s useful to remind the citizens of your nation that things can be different. Larger nations than ours much similar to yours run analogous systems without the hassle you seem to impose yourselves.