Originally published by The Spinoff
The US President is promoting unfounded allegations of voter fraud. Now, New Zealand's election is being called into question on Twitter.
Posts on social media reveal that New Zealand is no more immune to claims of voter fraud than the United States.
And while the allegations may not be coming from any of our politicians, the Electoral Commission is contending with dozens of posts on Twitter from mysterious accounts claiming that the results of our general election are not as cut and dry as the polls say.
Many of the allegations stem from conspiracy theories out of the United States promoting the idea that voting software was to blame for Donald Trump losing the recent election.
Trump, who has continued to push the narrative that the election was stolen from him, has claimed that voting software "Dominion" deleted millions of votes cast for him, allowing for Joe Biden to secure the presidency. Trump's personal lawyer and Borat 2 supporting character Rudy Giuliani has falsely suggested that Dominion is connected to Antifa and the "radical left".
Giuliani has also promoted the idea that Smartmatic – another electronic voting system used in the US – was founded by former socialist Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
These claims have no basis in fact, but it has been enough to convince millions of Trump supporters in the US that the election was rigged. And here in New Zealand, the Electoral Commission has faced similar accusations around vote tallying and the software used.
It started with simple questions asking whether votes in our October general election were counted by hand or whether software such as Dominion was used.
While the Electoral Commission was kind enough to clarify that votes are counted by hand, for some Twitter users this was not enough to convince them that the votes were counted accurately. The Electoral Commission was asked to provide the name of the system that "tabulates" the votes once they have been counted.
In a tweet, the commission clarified that a system is indeed used for tabulation, but it is not the Dominion nor the Smartmatic systems that have caused controversy in the US.
"Our Election Management System, which tabulates the votes, was developed by an NZ company and regularly undergoes an independent security audit," the commission said on Twitter.
Named Catalyst, the company has worked with the Electoral Commission since 2003.
"This system performs the MMP calculations and provides detailed voting data to all the major media organisations," the company says on its website.
The fact that the company shares its name with a Democratic data firm company in the US – although spelt "Catalist" – was picked up by a Twitter user, but the suggestion it was the same company was quickly shut down.
One tweet, which included the hashtag "#electionfraud", suggested a manual recount should be conducted – without the use of a computer tabulation system. Another, which tagged in National leader Judith Collins and Magic Talk shock jock Sean Plunket, continued to make links between America's "Catalist" and our own. There was also some concern that a planned trial of online voting in the 2019 local election was at one stage intended to use Smartmatic, although the trial never went ahead.
In a statement to The Spinoff, an Electoral Commission spokesperson rejected any concerns around a lack of transparency in the recent election. "New Zealand has a robust and transparent electoral system that voters can trust," they said.
The spokesperson added: "Votes are counted manually in the presence of scrutineers and justices of the peace."
The blunt and succinct responses from the Electoral Commission on Twitter have been praised by other users, but the spokesperson says the social media team are just doing their job.
"It's to be expected that there will be questions about the finer detail of how elections are run. It's important that we address those questions so that people have accurate information about the process in New Zealand, and that's what our social media team have been doing."