More people are coming forward to say they found referendum campaign pamphlets in their EasyVote packs, but mystery continues to surround how they got there. Alex Braae reports.
Stacey Hone’s routine with the mail is very simple. She goes to the mailbox, sorts it then and there, and only takes addressed mail inside the front door.
She is one of a growing number of people who have come forward about finding flyers produced by euthanasia referendum campaign group VoteSafe inside their EasyVote packs. The new complaints follow The Spinoff’s report earlier this week that four members in a Northland household said they opened their packs to find the campaign material within. Hone clearly remembers taking the flyer out of the EasyVote envelope – and her mail habits are strict, she told the Spinoff.
“If the leaflet had been in my mailbox separate to the letter, I would never have read it. I would have seen it was a leaflet, and it would have gone straight into the recycling bin,” said Hone, who lives in the Waikato electorate.
The Spinoff has now been contacted by more than a dozen people who say they got VoteSafe flyers inside their EasyVote packs. We have followed up on each of them, and some have said they cannot be absolutely certain that the flyer was inside the envelope itself, rather than arriving alongside it in the mail.
However, Stacey Hone says she is certain, as are several others. She described her reaction the first time she pulled the VoteSafe flyer out of the envelope.
“I thought it was weird, the legality of it didn’t cross my mind. But I thought huh, how much have these campaigners paid to get these in here?”
It cannot be definitively ruled out that complainants have misremembered how they came across the VoteSafe flyers. The VoteSafe group has recently launched a mass mailout campaign, aiming to get those flyers into every household in the country before the election takes place. Many have arrived on the same day as the official voting packs. But many of those spoken to by The Spinoff, like Hone, are unequivocal.
Dale Smith in Northcote said that he never brings unaddressed mail inside his house, and remembers pulling the flyer out of the pack. “It’s a shared mailbox so if I have no interest in it, it doesn’t make it in the door,” he said.
Scott Jenkinson in Wigram said when he first opened the pack, he didn’t take any notice of the flyer, but then his partner Alexia pointed out that it shouldn’t have been in there. Jenkinson said that he was absolutely sure that the flyer had come from the envelope.
“I opened the letter, and when I opened it I was sitting in the chair. I looked over all the papers and put it next to my seat, and that was the only envelope I took over there.”
They join the Grant family in Northland, who filed the initial complaint after four of the six people in their household got flyers in their EasyVote packs.
VoteSafe NZ has been very clear that they have absolutely nothing to do with the flyers ending up in EasyVote packs. VoteSafe NZ campaign director Henoch Kloosterboer said in a statement issued following the Spinoff story that VoteSafe is “committed to running an ethical, legal campaign for the End of Life Choice Act referendum”.
Kloosterboer said he has no idea how it happened, and the organisation has committed to helping the Electoral Commission with its investigation. Kloosterboer suspects the organisation has been caught up in a controversy born of human error.
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission told The Spinoff that as of yesterday it had received about a dozen messages or complaints from the public about flyers being found in EasyVote packs. However, because of the ongoing investigation, they declined requests for an interview about the progress of that investigation, the potential explanations for the apparent error, or whether quality control processes had turned up any other mailout errors.
That’s a concern to Kloosterboer, who has seen widespread suspicion directed towards the campaign group since the story came to light.
“We’re really hoping that the Electoral Commission will come out quickly and clear VoteSafe’s name. VoteSafe are running an honest, ethical campaign and we don’t want this hampered by suspicions caused by this debacle.
“Voters are already going to the poll booths and casting their votes, and it’s more important now than ever for us to be able to communicate the risks and flaws in the End of Life Choice Act, that hundreds of lawyers and doctors have identified.”
Koosterboer says the situation may be the result of a printer error, since he understands that the commercial printer of the VoteSafe flyers also printed the referendum pamphlets in the EasyVote packs. The printer has been contacted for comment.
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