Thursday, March 31, 2016

The final word

The final results of the second referendum on the NZ flag were released yesterday, and the result was exactly the same: 43.2% voted for change, and 56.6% voted to keep the colonial flag. The absolute numbers for all categories went up, but they didn’t change the outcome at all.

All up, 2,140,895 votes were received, of which 2,135,622 were valid voted (and 5,044—a mere 0.2%—were invalid). This means that 67.8% of enrolled voters actually voted, which is a pretty good voter turnout, and awesome for a postal ballot.

Although I was disappointed in the result, I wasn’t in any way surprised: After such an awful “debate” there was no way the alternative flag would get a fair chance at replacing the colonial flag. However, the high voter turnout (relative to other postal ballots) means that this is a relatively sound result; had a minority of voters bothered to post their ballots back, the result could have been illegitimate.

At the end of February 2016, 92.35% of eligible voters were actually enrolled to vote. Under New Zealand law, it is mandatory that all eligible voters register to vote, but I’m not aware of anyone ever being penalised for failing to do so. Also, for a variety of reasons (such as moving house), there will always be some eligible voters who cannot be registered for a particular election.

What this means is that the actual voter turnout was about 62% of eligible voters. So, the vote to keep the colonial flag was 35% of eligible voters and the vote to change the flag was 27% of eligible voters. This is only something of interest to politics nerds because—obviously!—the only votes that matter are those actually cast, but it fascinates me how much difference those unregistered voters make to overall vote totals (and, the current flag still won a plurality of the vote among eligible voters—just not an outright majority).

Some people are still bleating on about this, either advocating how the push for change could be moved forward, or continuing to push ideological barrows, or continuing to micro-analyse the supposed reasons for the failure of the alternative flag, or some combination of these. Me, I’m just glad it’s over, and as much as I want to see a new flag, I hope it's something we don't revisit for a very, very long time.

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