We’ll learn this morning if the election will be postponed. Should it be?
Labour and the Green Party seem happy to stick with September 19. National, Act, and New Zealand First would prefer a delay.
There is some self-interest in these positions but elections aren’t just about politicians and political parties, they are for the people.
Delaying the election will cause a lot of work for the Electoral Commission which will already have booked places to be used as polling booths and employed people to staff them September 19.
That isn’t by itself a reason to stick with the date. The early announcement of the election date only began with John Key for the 2011 election. Before that the Prime Minister of the day used to leave it until a time he or she chose to announce the date, often only a few weeks before polling day.
In the normal course of events announcing early is better for the Commission, giving it plenty of time to get organised, makes it fairer for all parties and gives the public plenty of notice.
However, events are not coursing normally.
Auckland is in level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country is at level 2. On Friday we were told that these levels will be maintained until August 26th.
If parliament is dissolved today and the election goes ahead on September 19, overseas voting will start a week later and early voting a few days after that.
It’s not just that parties and candidates need time to campaign, it’s that people need time to get to know them, to meet them, listen to them and equally importantly talk to and question them.
And it’s not just the election but two referendums that will be held at the same time. While all of these may be of great interest to political tragics and those who feel strongly on the referendum issues, many people haven’t begun thinking about them yet.
There is also the concern many elderly people and others who are immune compromised could be unwilling to go to polling booths so soon after this cluster of community transmission.
There is no guarantee there will not be another outbreak of Covid-19 in the run up to a new date, but if the government and health officials learn from their mistakes, chances are we will be at level 1 for long enough for a near normal campaign.
The likelihood of at least a few weeks’ delay increased yesterday with a media release from deputy PM, WInston Peters in which he released an open letter to the PM telling her the election should be delayed.
Although that doesn’t alter the PM’s right to decide the election date, it does mean a majority of parliament favours a delay.
Disregarding that, and the other factors supporting a delay would be doing a disservice to democracy.