FactCheck Social Media

Thousands of ‘missing votes’ from NZ election are a social media mirage

2020-10-30 11:13:34

The Statement

A Facebook post claims that “200,000 plus votes” were removed from the New Zealand general election results earlier in October.

The meme, which includes an image of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, carries the tagline: “New Zealand election rigged.”

At the time of publication, the October 19 post has been shared more than 180 times and attracted more than 15,000 views.

A Facebook post
 A post claims that “200,000 plus votes” were removed from NZ’s election held on October 17. 

The Analysis

The post makes a false claim about the “removal” of “200,000 plus” votes from the New Zealand election in an apparent comparison between voting tallies for the 2017 and 2020 elections. There is no evidence the election was “rigged” or the result was tampered with in any way.

The 2020 national New Zealand poll was held on October 17. The preliminary count shows 2,383,796 votes were cast at the election, from which the Jacinda Ardern-led Labour Party won 49.1 per cent of the total.

In the 2017 election, official results from the Electoral Commission showed 2,591,896 votes cast, excluding informal and disallowed votes. This is a difference of 208,100 from the 2020 preliminary results and near the “200,000 plus” figure cited in the post.

However, the preliminary 2020 results do not represent the final voting total, which is predicted to include another 480,000 special declaration votes. The official results will be released on November 6.

A spokesperson for the New Zealand Electoral Commission told AAP FactCheck in an email that the claim in the post is false.

“The Electoral Commission can assure New Zealanders that no votes are missing and votes have not been removed from the count,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s estimated that there will be approximately 480,000 special declaration votes taking the total number of votes cast this election to around 2.8 million.”

The estimate of special votes was also included in the commission’s election night media release. Special votes include votes cast overseas or by telephone dictation, by people voting outside of their electorate or who enrolled late, Wellington lawyer Graeme Edgler wrote in an explanatory blog.

The Commission noted in its statement to AAP FactCheck that “New Zealand has a robust and transparent electoral system with many checks and balances”.

“The process for counting votes is thorough and careful. It is subject to independent scrutiny from candidate and party scrutineers, Justices of the Peace, and the judiciary if there are recounts or electoral petitions.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern casts her vote during the New Zealand election. 

The Verdict

AAP FactCheck found the claim in the Facebook post to be false. A preliminary tally for the 2020 election shows fewer votes counted than in 2017, however the total does not include an estimated 480,000 special declaration votes. The New Zealand Election Commission said election votes had not been removed nor were they missing.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/