Vote fraud case could lead to Super City mayor result challenge

By Jared Savage

Daljit Singh in court on October 5. Photo / Richard Robinson
Daljit Singh in court on October 5. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Super City result in Papatoetoe is likely to be legally challenged by political rivals of a candidate charged with forging documents to sway the election.

Up to 1500 votes are in question.

If the race between Len Brown and John Banks is close, a judicial inquiry could even cast doubt over the first mayor of the new Auckland Council.

Name suppression has been lifted from Daljit Singh, a Labour Party candidate in the Papatoetoe subdivision of the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board in the Manukau Ward.

He and another man, who still has name suppression, have been jointly charged with forgery.

The pair are alleged to have forged change of address forms to falsely enrol voters in Papatoetoe.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

Daljit Singh has denied any wrongdoing and was confident his name would be cleared.

"I am absolutely a law-abiding citizen with good faith in the judiciary."

More than 300 voters have been removed from the electoral roll but the Weekend Herald understands up to 1500 enrolments are under police investigation.

Justice John Priestley refused to protect Daljit Singh's identity after the police and the media opposed his application for name suppression in the High Court at Auckland.

"In my judgment it would be wrong in principle to prohibit publication of the appellant's name, given that he faces an alleged charge which is intricately involved with the voting process for an election in which he is one of many candidates," said Justice Priestley.

"The damage to other possible candidates could be considerable. The interests of justice, in my view, demand publication of the appellant's name to remove any taint of suspicion from other candidates."

Daljit Singh said the allegations, which had been "mischievously brought", had damaged his campaign.

But other candidates in the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board said they had also been tarnished by the criminal charges and interim name suppression.

Fellow Labour candidate Sukhdev Singh Hundal said he was pleased that suppression had been lifted so he could clear his name.

"I feel shame also because he is one of the champions of Sikh rights. It's sad."

Citizens & Ratepayers candidates Narinder Singla and Avtar Hans said the suppression "had done a lot of damage to us".

C&R colleague Ray Strong said the election would have been "unfairly tarnished" by these allegations and subsequent suppression.

"I intend to contest the vote when it comes out, to go for a judicial inquiry. If I don't, we lose the opportunity to ask for another election. That's what it could end up at.

"This would affect the mayoral race too."

Independent candidates such as Stephen Grey, Donna Lee, Ian McGechie and John McCracken raised the possibility of a judicial review.

Auckland electoral officer Dale Ofsoske said a candidate had 21 days to apply for a judicial inquiry, in which a judge would look at a particular aspect of the election.

That could lead to a new election for the local board, ward or even the mayoralty if it was a close result.

Auckland City Mayor John Banks said there had never been such serious allegations of attempts to undermine the electoral system.

"It is very, very worrying and I have to say that after the campaign I think we need Parliament to have a look at postal voting," said Mr Banks.

Mr Brown, the Mayor of Manukau, said voters would be disappointed by the allegations against Daljit Singh. But he was reluctant to say if there should be a judicial inquiry.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 27 Dec 2014 03:50:38 Processing Time: 473ms