Thursday, September 17, 2020

Voting in a pandemic

The New Zealand General Election will be held on Saturday, October 17, and the voting period begins on Saturday, October 3, which will give people plenty of time to vote. This year, the system is being adjusted to deal with the global pandemic. Voting by mail in the General Election isn’t a "thing" in New Zealand (it's only used in Local Government elections and the occasional referendum), so some prudent precautions are necessary.

The video above, with two well-known New Zealand TV presenters, is an ad from the Electoral Commission that’s currently running on NZ television. It lays out the general parts of how the election will be run. There are also a series of shorter ads on several aspects touched on in the general add, but those haven’t been on TV yet.

Up first is physical distancing:

The next ad is for hand sanitiser:

The next ad is about pens. NZ voters are being urdged to bring their own pen, but pens will also be provided and people will take those pens home with them (New Zealand’s ballots are paper—we don’t use voting machines).

All of these ads were also made in Te Reo Māori. Both of the Morrisons are advocates and teachers/coaches for the language. It’s part of a larger trend to present such messages in Te Reo.

I don’t know for certain that the short ads will also be on TV, but in past elections they’ve run similarly short ads several times during prime time, which may be more effective than running one longer ad. (If I remember, I’ll add an update to this post of the shorter ads do start airing.)

The underlying theme of this is that we all—voters and those running the election alike—should take prudent precautions during this pandemic. In general, though, voting isn’t any more dangerous than going to the supermarket: Both require physical distancing, hand hygiene, and similar methods for people to keep themselves safe. New Zealand will almost certainly be at Level 1 by Election Day, so face masks probably won’t be suggested (right now, they’re only required for public transport users at Level 2 and above), but that doesn’t mean people can’t wear them, of course.

There’s every reason to have total faith that we have a high degree of safety for our elections, despite the pandemic. Confidence in the integrity of our elections themselves is always there, of course, so the issue is just that we don’t want anyone to be afraid to vote. Right now, I doubt anyone will.

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