Part 6: Comments from the Electoral Commission

General Election 2023: Independent review of counting errors.

The Electoral Commission is required to report to the Minister of Justice on the operation of the 2023 General Election in May 2024. Our report will be considered in the context of the Commission's review of the election.

The Electoral Commission is moving into its "planning: define and design" phase for the next general election. This will include making any process changes that it considers necessary. The Commission has been gathering and documenting feedback and lessons about various aspects of the election process. Continuous improvement is a feature of good practice in managing systems and processes. We encourage the Commission to continue this practice.

These reviews will help the Electoral Commission decide what further work and projects should be prioritised to prepare for the next election. We suggest the Commission prepare an improvement plan to progress these changes in a structured and monitored way.

The Electoral Commission has told us that it is planning to make several changes.

Statement from the Electoral Commision

The Commission is grateful for the Controller and Auditor General's comprehensive review of the errors in the 2023 general election results. The findings and recommendations are fully accepted.

While the errors were too small to impact on the final results, we deeply regret they occurred. There will always be errors in a predominantly manual process, but we acknowledge that the existing processes and controls did not operate effectively in all cases in 2023.

The large 46% increase in people enrolling during the voting period in 2023 over 2020 put huge pressure on our processes and people, directly contributing to these errors.

The Commission has had to make many difficult trade-offs over the years in election service levels, responding to new and significant risks and threats, and continually improving the resilience and integrity of key election processes. Going into 2023 mitigating risks of disruption from foreign and domestic activities and further catastrophic weather events was a focus. While these were external risks, important internal processes were reviewed and strengthened with these in mind. We will have to continue to make difficult decisions, but a focus on integrity will be a priority.

The Commission had already invested in 2023 in better capabilities to review and assure key election processes, which places it well to address the recommendations ahead of the 2026 general election. In addition, the Commission's Board has:

  • Comprehensively reviewed delivery of the 2023 election and particularly the post-election period, and will report to Parliament at the end of May this year
  • Adopted an updated assurance policy and audit plan, setting clearer expectations for the management and reporting of controls activity
  • Commissioned audits on post-election and enrolment processes to identify any further gaps or improvements needed to quality assurance controls
  • Initiated a review of operating manuals and training to improve the implementation of quality assurance controls during delivery of elections
  • Prioritised making improvements to post election processes to improve the integrity and timeliness of the official count
  • Approved short term changes to strengthen the official count process for any by-election required before a full review of post-election processes is completed

The Board of the Commission will closely monitor and report on the delivery of these and other improvements to ensure New Zealanders can continue to have trust in the delivery of elections.