Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Pandemic Preparedness and the New Zealand general election

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  • Andrew Geddis,

    “Yes, there are rules (also updated last week) about what to do if there is an ‘unforeseen or unavoidable disruption’ to an election. They’re mostly designed to deal with short-term, or localised disruptions (think earthquake or particularly bad weather), and only once an election has been called, but they could be used during an epidemic.”

    As someone involved in the policy formulation behind these legislative changes, I think this is characterisation of them is wrong. The possibility of a national disruption, potentially lengthy in nature, was very much considered and included in the changes. Hence the initial 3 day suspension power + recurrent 7 day extensions + wide discretion in using alternative voting processes as needed.

    A hint that such considerations were at the forefront of thinking on the changes is that one of the potential triggers for the powers under the Act is: “an epidemic notice given under section 5(1) of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 being in force”

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 205 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    <aside>
    Wouldn't surprise me if the suddenly 'on-board and caring' President Trump tries postponing this year's elections in the US of A... you know, for the health of the people!
    </aside>

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7902 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Trump tries postponing this year’s elections

    That would require a bill passed by both houses and signed by the president (and almost definitely also requiring the assent of their supreme court just because someone is bound to sue).

    The US Constitution says the terms of the President and Vice President end at noon on the 20th day of January. Without a president or vice president the order of succession falls through to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. So either they hold the election, delay it via both houses, or they let the role fall through to Pelosi. One of those things seems like something Trump would do almost anything to avoid.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1223 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    IMO widespread electronic voting could only reasonably produce a caretaker government just because it's so grossly insecure that even a landslide win wouldn't be convincing evidence of the intention of the voters. You might as well use a telephone poll of 100 voters per electorate and save the theatrics.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1223 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis, in reply to Moz,

    This is broadly true, but for the bit about the presidency devolving to Nancy Pelosi on 20 January.

    Because, the Constitution also says that:
    Art 1: "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States", and
    Art 20: "The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin."

    So - if there's been no election to choose a new President, then there won't have been an election to choose new members of Congress, so Pelosi's term will have ended 17 days before Trump's and there'll be no-one to replace her and everything is stuffed.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 205 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis, in reply to Moz,

    Depends what we mean by"electronic voting". If it's the sort currently used for overseas voters - download a ballot, print it, fill it out, scan it back in and send electronically to the Electoral Commission - then there's no real security concerns (or, none that are any greater than the current way we vote).

    If it's full online voting, then run away screaming (https://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/116496911/why-it-will-never-be-possible-to-have-a-completely-protected-online-voting).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 205 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Homer, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Presumably there will still be a President pro Tempore of the Senate next in line, whose term will not have expired (but who isn't Nancy Pelosi and is 87 years old, though they could elect someone else in the gap).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • Jarno van der Linden,

    As off-by-one errors are part of my profession, how does the three year term deal with leap years? Is it just a matter of adding three to the year? Could a someone mischievous make the 29th of February in a leap year as the date of return of the writ?

    What about the referendums? Can they be postponed independently of the election in order to keep election day voting and processing quick and simple in trying times?

    Nelson • Since Oct 2007 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    The current system seems vulnerable to denial of service attacks/ballot stuffing, and a credential leak or hack would be a disaster. If we ran the whole election that way the temptation for someone to do the latter would increase significantly... the saving thing right now is that hardly anyone uses the electronic option so changing the election outcome that way is almost impossible. Likewise "fill out the voting paper and have your racist uncle drop it off at the polling booth for you" doesn't scale too well.

    Take that away and you have a full online voting but without the normal safeguards. Over here we're still recovering from the AEC fiasco in WA where even re-running a single electorate is a bit ugly.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1223 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Pelosi’s term will have ended 17 days before Trump’s

    I am informed that Pelosi is not up for election this year, they do that half-each-time thing. So she'll still be in place.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1223 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    Thanks Graeme (and Andrew).

    Going in the opposite direction, it would seem less likely now that the PM would call a snap election. I'm sure she has no plans to, but things can change ... NZF could unravel, Shane Jones could push his luck too far, etc.

    But all kinds of practical problems then have to be considered: imagine a campaign without people gathering in large numbers (insert ACT launch jokes here). No rallies, no marches, no handshakes ... no baby kissing?

    Selfie-isolation?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1326 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Homer, in reply to Moz,

    The entire House is up for election every two years; a third of the Senate is up for election every two years. Nothing is half-each-time. She’s out as described.

    Chuck Grassley, the President pro Tempore of the Senate, is still there until 2022 and would act as president in this scenario if nothing else changed. I imagine the remaining two-thirds of the Senate would elect somebody else instead if they knew that was coming, though - particularly since that remaining two-thirds has a 33-32-2 split in favour of the other party, so some Democratic senator would act as President instead.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis, in reply to Moz,

    You are misinformed, and appear to be mixing up the Senate with the House. 1/3rd of the Senate is elected every 2 years. But the entire House is elected every two years. See here: https://ballotpedia.org/California%27s_12th_Congressional_District_election,_2020

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 205 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis, in reply to simon g,

    There won't be a "snap" election (i.e. one held before Sept 19) - that would bring the election date forward into the period when Covid-19 is most likely to be here. If anything, there will be a delay to the election date, which Ardern would negotiate with Bridges and others (I'm sure).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 205 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Why is a supposedly impartial chief political reporter like Jessica Mutch-Mckay politicising her ‘live interview’ with the PM?
    see:
    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/one-news-at-6pm/episodes/s2020-e77
    at 12:38 she starts by saying the package has been criticised (after coverage of people saying it was good) and then ends by saying people criticise that it wasn’t fast enough and adding "I guess it will be for people to decide in the coming months and on election day just how fast that package has been."
    - Not helping!!!

    This is very negative spin and does not help the situation – Mutch-Mckay needs to stick to the story at hand and not politicise it or throw in dog whistles!

    The last thing we need is ‘changing horses mid crisis’ – and Bridges’ and Goldsmith’s seemingly bottomless sump of negativity and platitudes is not a productive way forward

    I have complained to TVNZ.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7902 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Attachment

    Dusting off the self isolating colours. This is the legally required signal, for entering a foreign port. The yellow flag is the quarantine.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Yes well so I’m just going to do all the talking then.

    People who are managing mental health challenges such as OCD. Are you okay?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Right'o,

    I'm an essential service. I have a taxi, and I am a licensed professional driver, with my passenger endorsement. Anyone need transport to anywhere?

    The car is a six cylinder gas guzzler (LPG). Perfect for as long range as Wellington - Auckland, ect.

    Obviously, you would need to have an appropriate need to travel.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Anyone have any idea who a taxi driver would approach for advise on how to operate safely during a pandemic?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Like you, I'd assume the Transport agency (in partnership with the Health dept)
    https://www.nzta.govt.nz/commercial-driving/taxis-shuttles-buses-and-other-passenger-services/running-a-passenger-service/
    But they seem to have closed down - the link goes here:
    https://www.nzta.govt.nz/about-us/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-services-update/
    which says on-line services are still viable

    Other online services remain available.
    Transport Agency 'Contact us' page

    Due to the COVID-19 alert level change, as our Contact Centre is not an essential service, it has now been closed until further notice however, we are still responding to emails.
    Please note that due to reduced staffing levels, this will have a significant impact on our response times, and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as we can.

    - worth a crack

    That and stringent and scrupulous cleaning (astringent even!)
    But how do ya kill something that isn't even 'alive' - it's just a genetic OS.

    go well

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7902 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    Acute mental inpatient units currently have no credible plans for isolating Covid19 positive patients.

    Unless this is sorted out very quickly inpatient units will act as sources of cross infection.

    There’s been some discussion of mental heath issues but overlooked are the most acutely unwell and vulnerable.

    Staff of these units will be going home to families and many are already deeply distressed at the prospect of spreading the virus to their children and parents.

    Since Nov 2016 • 364 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    - worth a crack

    I filled out there enquiry form, so now I wait. There isn’t anything on there web sight about Covid-19 and the role of the taxi driver. Only that NZTA have all gone home

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    Why I mention this is with acute mental inpatient settings there is no way social distancing can be enforced, let alone effective infection isolation. If someone is positive then it will spread very quickly to patients, who often have physical issues, and staff who go back home after work.

    That is very different to general hospital settings.

    Since Nov 2016 • 364 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    covid19.gov

    So, I can get up tomorrow morning and go Uber driving, (if I want).

    Most small passenger endorsed operators wont have that choice. They are not naturally eligible for the subsidies, because the pandemic has not stoped them from working.

    Please be nice to them, that are mostly working for under the minimum wage.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Made an essential journey to the pharmacy today. This pharmacy in the Porirua mall had professionals, was very well managed. Big sign said sanitises sold out.

    Up the road at Canons Creek all the diaries where open and I observed frail old people getting their shopping.

    When I got into Whitby, I noticed a different class of lock-down. I noticed families out on their bikes like its boxing day and a full on virus test being conducted at the medical centre carpark. I mean full on Hazchem looking.

    At some point I expect civil defence to make the announcement that sanitising products will be rationed to essential service providers, because that group are more likely to spread the virus than everyone else who are isolating at home, correct?

    I can’t get my hands on any sanitisers. I am a taxi driver.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

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