Sunday, June 23, 2024

Electoral law change a vote for public trust

Justice Minister, Kiri Allan has announced changes to electoral law aimed at supporting participation in parliamentary elections, and improving public trust and confidence in New Zealand’s electoral system.

The changes are targeted at increasing transparency around political donations and loans and include requiring the disclosure of:

  • donor identities for any party donations over $5,000;
  • the number and total value of party donations under $1,500 not made anonymously;
  • the proportion of total party donations that are in-kind (non-monetary) donations; and
  • loans to candidates from unregistered lenders. 

“The results from public and targeted consultation were clear: New Zealanders want greater transparency about how our political parties and candidates are funded,” Minister Allan said.

 “Appropriately regulated political donations and loans underpin public trust in the integrity of our electoral system, and the key institutions of a democratic government.

“Importantly, better transparency of party and candidate financing helps support public trust and confidence in our electoral system. These changes will provide the public with more of the information they want.”

Additionally, all registered parties would be required to make their financial statements publicly available every year.

Another important proposal is the temporary expansion of overseas voting eligibility for the 2023 General Election.

“Under the current law, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents lose their eligibility to vote if they remain overseas beyond three years for New Zealand citizens and one year for permanent residents.”

“There have been some unique challenges facing New Zealand citizens and permanent residents who haven’t been able to return home over the last two years, including COVID-19 travel restrictions and mandatory isolation requirements.

“While many requirements have been lifted, overseas voters still face considerable financial, travel, health, and logistical barriers to returning home, including the risk of further COVID-19 restrictions.

“The Government recognises that and will extend the voting eligibility criteria from three to six years for citizens, and one to four years for permanent residents.

“This would uphold the rights of thousands of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents to exercise their democratic rights by voting in the upcoming general election and acknowledges that the issues they faced were out of their control,” Ms Allan said.

The initiative would be temporary, applying only to the 2023 General Election. Any permanent changes to the eligibility criteria for overseas voters will be considered by the Independent Review of electoral law, which is due to report back by the end of 2023.

An Electoral Amendment Bill will progress the changes shortly, in time for the 2023 General Election.

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