Not great: Auckland’s ‘one stop shops’ have been running out of voting papers

Good: setting up places for people to cast a special vote while they’re waiting for their dumplings. Bad: those places running out of voting papers. Hayden Donnell reports on some trouble with Auckland Council’s one stop shops.

Auckland Council’s one stop shops are a great idea. The stations at night markets, universities, and marae allow people to cast a special vote on the spot, sometimes in the time it takes for their food order to arrive. They’re a useful attempt at staving off local election apathy and engaging the people who either don’t know how to carry out the archaic ritual of posting a letter, or who haven’t updated their enrollment details between one of their last three flat evictions.

The initiative should be an easy PR win for council. The only real thing that could go wrong is the one stop shops running out of voting papers.

Unfortunately I have some bad news. It appears Auckland Council’s one stop shops have been running out of voting papers.

Comedian Joseph Moore was the first to report a shortage. He went to the Karangahape Rd pop-up booth on October 3 and requested some papers for the Albert-Eden ward, only to be told they’d run out. “The guy was apologetic and told us he’d courier voting forms to my house but they haven’t shown up,” Moore says. “My hot take: They should have brought more forms.”

It wasn’t the only Moore-related one stop shop incident. Joseph’s sister Miriam Moore took her unenrolled flatmate to cast a special vote at the Avondale Markets on October 6, and was also told they’d run out of papers for the Albert-Eden ward. Miriam says her flatmate was booked to go on holiday the day after the market and is now unlikely to vote. “The pop-ups are a fantastic idea and I’ve directed so many people there but they should be able to vote, otherwise my constant hounding and advice is starting to get a bit embarrassing,” she says.

In both cases, the potential voters were requesting papers for a neighbouring ward: Karangahape Rd is in Waitematā and Avondale Markets are in Whau. But Miriam says she knows Waitematā residents who were also told they couldn’t vote at the Karangahape Rd pop-up. “They ran out of them too,” she says. “They’ve been told they would get them in the mail… but [they] still haven’t got them.”

Auckland Council admits to running out of voting papers at some of its one stop shops. Its democracy services manager Marguerite Delbet attributes those lapses partly to the challenge of running more than 50 of the pop-ups, compared to two last election – as well as to the complexity of Auckland’s voting system.

“There are 68 different combinations of voting papers for the Auckland Council local elections. While our teams have stocks of all voting papers, there have been occasions when demand for our service has been so high, we’ve run out of specific types of voting papers,” her statement says. 

Delbit says the One Stop Shop programme was initially run by 40 volunteers. But it has grown in popularity and additional volunteers have been brought on to help during busy periods. As of Monday, 276 people had voted at 19 one stop shops, while others had taken their special voting papers home to make a decision.

It’s a tough situation. On one hand, the pop-ups are a laudable effort to reach people who would otherwise have been unlikely to vote, and Auckland Council is doing a lot better than other local authorities around New Zealand. I recently travelled to the Far North. Despite being one of the biggest districts in the country, special votes are only able to be cast on drop-in days at the council’s Kaitaia and Kaikohe offices.

On the other, running out of voting papers at your own voting drive makes you look a bit like a nincompoop, and worse, puts off already reluctant voters. This comes on the heels of another issue where people were initially advised by the electoral officer to bring along photo ID if they wanted to vote at one stop shops. That advice was revised after it emerged it’s totally unnecessary to bring along any form of ID if you want to vote in New Zealand.

Please don’t take this discouraging story as a discouragement though. If you haven’t voted, there’s still time. The easiest way is to put your vote in the post before the final mail collection today, Tuesday, October 8. If you’re in Auckland, you can cast a special vote at one of five libraries, nine council service centres, or at the Independent Election Services office. Or you could seek out a one stop shop at one of these locations in the next five days. Voting papers should be available on-site.

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