Questions over Waitakere vote

By Kathryn Powley

National's Paula Bennett. Photo / APN
National's Paula Bennett. Photo / APN

Evidence of dodgy voting has emerged in the battle for Waitakere. A judge has found nine people voted twice and 393 people voted despite not being on the electoral roll.

The result has changed twice: National's Paula Bennett won by 349 votes on election night, then Labour's Carmel Sepuloni inched ahead by 11 after the special vote count, only to have Bennett reclaim victory on Friday by nine votes after a judicial recount.

The Herald on Sunday has obtained a copy of Judge John Adams' initial judgment. It shows Bennett gained eight votes after the recount while Sepuloni lost 12.

Labour bosses will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to accept defeat or pursue an electoral petition. Former president Mike Williams, who was a scrutineer in the recount, did not favour an electoral petition as he thought it unlikely Sepuloni would win.

He said the change in result boiled down to a "pile of votes" allocated to Sepuloni that had erroneously included a small number for Bennett.

Auckland lawyer Peter Kiely was recount scrutineer for the National Party
and said some changes came about because votes allowed on election night might have had a mark in the box rather than a tick.

Kiely revealed 425 declared votes were disallowed - nine were dual votes, 393 ineligible votes and 12 were not authorised by a witness.

"Those 393, not only were they not on the roll in Waitakere, but they weren't enrolled anywhere."

Kiely had been involved in a number of judicial recounts for the Nats and said the potential high cost of mounting an electoral petition might put Labour off.

He said in March 2006 Winston Peters was ordered to pay Tauranga MP Bob Clarkson $40,000 in costs after a failed electoral petition.

Labour Party president Moira Coatsworth said the question of whether to pursue a petition would be discussed at a meeting on Tuesday. Sepuloni thought it an unlikely course though. "We'll see. It's a possibility. I've got to have that discussion with the party."

Despite losing the seat, she was proud to have come so close to winning.

Bennett said she had a "true Westie" party at her house on Friday night after hearing she was back as an electorate MP.

An electoral petition must be lodged within 28 days of the official results being declared on December 10.

- Herald on Sunday

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