Theft fears as referendum papers hit letterboxes

NZ Herald Jul 31, 2009

A record roll of just over 3 million New Zealanders will start receiving voting papers today for the country’s first citizens-initiated referendum to be conducted by postal vote. The ballot, asking whether smacking should be a criminal offence, raised fears yesterday that enthusiasts on both sides may try to corrupt the vote by stealing voting papers from letterboxes over the next few days. Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden urged voters to alert him to any possible interference by ringing his office’s tollfree number if they have not received voting papers by next week. He warned that anyone interfering with ballot papers faced a fine of up to $40,000 or up to two years in jail.

..Family First director Bob McCoskrie, who helped to gather the 300,000 signatures required to obtain a citizens-initiated vote, said the whole campaign was timed for the election. He said Prime Minister John Key had also tried to undermine the referendum by questioning its wording, but heavy enrolments suggested his comments had backfired. “I think it actually rarked people up again,” Mr McCoskrie said. “They thought, ‘Here we go again, nobody’s listening.’ So what I’m picking up is that there’s a mood to send a strong message.”

“Yes Vote” spokeswoman Deborah Morris-Travers also urged people to vote. “There’s been a lot of talk about people abstaining or possibly even spoiling their vote, but I think it is important for people to vote because it’s an issue that is fundamental to the wellbeing of children and of families and society.”