1069 wasted votes for ineligible candidate

By Alexandra Newlove

1 comment
Okara candidate Angela Gill withdrew her nomination, but more than 1000 people still voted for her. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
Okara candidate Angela Gill withdrew her nomination, but more than 1000 people still voted for her. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

A candidate who received more than 1000 votes despite withdrawing from the election says she is "shocked and humbled" by the outcome.

Other candidates in Whangarei's Okara Ward say the result raises questions around how effective the election process is.

Former Go-Whangarei candidate Angela Gill withdrew her candidacy in mid-September due to an issue with the timing of her citizenship ceremony.

Voting documents which included her name had already been printed.

Election results revealed 1069 people had voted for Ms Gill.

Each Okara voter could pick up to four ward candidates - the elected four were Vince Cocurullo (Go Whangarei), Cherry Hermon, Sue Glen and Stu Bell.

Mr Bell received 1896 votes, closely followed by Chris Leitch (1833), Brian (Butch) McLachlan ((1827) and Ash Holwell (1806).

A public notice and stories in the Advocate notified people of Ms Gill's withdrawal, but her profile still appeared on the Go-Whangarei website and her photo and name remained on some election signage featuring four Go Whangarei team members.

The 13-member Go-Whangarei team had pooled their resources in a highly visible campaign during the election period.

Northland Electoral Officer Dale Ofsoskesaid he was satisfied he had adequately notified voters via the public notice and that there was no legislative issue with the signs.

Go-Whangarei leader David Blackleyconfirmed that the advice from Election Services had been "that we didn't have to do anything".

The 1069 votes would not have been enough to earn Ms Gill a seat in Okara, a hotly contested ward where 8 of the 18 candidates got between 1000 and 2000 votes.

Ms Gill said she was shocked when she first saw the result, but was now "saddened, that I am not able to serve my community for the next three years".

"I am humbled by the number of votes I did receive and the level of support from my community during this time," she said.

"I can't predict the future, but I am eager to continue being actively involved in my community and do look forward to seriously considering standing for election in 2019."

Okara candidate Ash Holwell said "that a disqualified candidate can poll well in a close ward is a massive indication the whole process is fairly ineffective".

"The $100,000 [Go-Whangarei campaign] gained a candidate who didn't campaign over 1000 votes, so we can safely say that the result in Okara would have been much different if that unacceptable inequality had not existed," he said.

Unsuccessful incumbent Brian McLachlan said elections were "all about profile". He had spent about a quarter as much on his 2016 campaign as he had last election, and suspected this had contributed to him not being re-elected.

"You've got to spend a fair bit, particularly in Okara," Mr McLachlan said.

Chris Leitch, who missed out on a seat in Okara by 63 votes said Ms Gill's votes were a "moot point".

"We have no idea who the people who voted for her would have voted for instead."

- Northern Advocate

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