MW: Today we’re going to be talking with Bruce Crocombe. He is from the Electoral Integrity Project. Sorry I had to quite remember that. EIP, Electoral Integrity Project. Now this is a very important, I mean extremely important function that Bruce has been doing with his team.
It’s all about making sure that we get scrutiny on our election, which has just been. Now, on initial discussions with Bruce, I’ve been absolutely mortified as to what he’s found. I mean, seriously, it’s the foxes in charge of the hen house, and no one’s monitoring the foxes. That’s what it seems to be. Bruce, would that be a fair description of what you’ve actually found?
BC: Yep, Basically, three years ago after the last election, a few anomalies were glaringly obvious, basically, that something wasn’t right. And so I was involved with another lady from the, well, you know, Tracy Livingston, looking at other elections, and we basically sat down and said, look, we’re not here as a political group. We are just, here for the electoral integrity project, we’re here basically as a cross-party group of people who are just looking at the integrity of the election and the processes that are involved in it. And it’s, like you said, it’s become glaringly obvious to me that the fox is in charge of the hen house. When you start off, we’re basically looking at procedures.
It’s not very good right from the start because the election, the electoral commission basically state on their website that we have control of the electoral process.
MW: So let’s just walk us back just a little bit. Just tell us about the electoral integrity project itself, as in, you know, why did you, what is it actually, I know you’re getting there, but just come back to, you know, what was it that you had scrutineers out in the market, in the electoral process at the polling stations?
BC: Yes, basically we all sort of got together as a group of different people. We sat down and we said, what within the selection do we need to watch to make sure that the whole thing has integrity? And we started off looking at getting involved with having people or scrutineers in every electoral voting place in the country. Now that became a strategic, strategically quite impossible because you’re talking, I don’t know the exact number, 2,700 voting places across the nation in New Zealand. That’s a lot of scrutineers to mobilise.
The basic concept was go in there, observe the process because according to the Act the scrutineers are there to observe the process. But, We were basically denied observing the process. The returning officers stopped us.
About three weeks before I sent out an email to every, not the Electoral Commission, I sent the email to every electorate office basically stating, these are the documents, basically giving them an outline of this is what the Electoral Integrity Project is about. These are the documents that our scrutineers would like to observe and take copies of. And then I went through various parts of the Act which showed these it was quite legitimate that what we were asking for was it was quite legitimate and within the act I got about two messages back from that which basically talked a load of rubbish basically the typical official information act type stuff where you get fed word salad basically they talk around in circles but actually really explain nothing.
So then from there we went out to all the people and we found out what the various documents looked like. That in itself was a mission, an official information request sent to the Electoral Commission to ask for the documents and the procedures. They basically returned it back to us saying. You’re asking for information which is going to take too long to collect, we’re not going to be able to give it to you.
So the whole process is based on procedure, and it’s based on procedure that they’ve built up over years. But when you try and question it as it’s legal standing, they walk away and they won’t talk. And if you actually go through the Official Information Act request system, you get feedback, basically, word salad, except it’s word salad after the bull’s eaten, that sort of thing.
MW: Right. So within the process of this last election, the scrutineers that were employed by the Electoral Commission, now I have to be careful. I was going to ask, that was the question I was going to ask. Are they employed? Yeah. Are they employed by the Electoral Commission?
BC: No, scrutineers aren’t employed. The scrutineering is simply a voluntary role. Because basically on the eve of the election, at 7 p.m. and most electorates, all of the scrutineers were told to leave.
There was no opportunity, the scrutineers could not get the second half of the information that was happening in the voting places, because the voting place up till 7pm were counting the preliminary counts and then at 7pm when the poll closed, those preliminary counts were sent through to the, or phoned through to the headquarters and then they began collecting, they began counting the election day counts.
Of course none of the scrutineers were allowed to get that information. So there was a deliberate attempt, one, to keep 20% of the information out of the system. Two, 50% of the counts done at the voting places and in the election headquarters were kept away from the scrutineers. So you couldn’t get 50% of the information.
The thing is they are actually removing the data from circulation which is public information. There is nothing in the Act that says that every returning or every voting place manager may not keep a copy of the documents that he presents. Nothing. But the whole procedures are designed to put those documents into the boxes.
They’re secure under the control of the Electoral Commission, even though they are public data. You know, if you can phone that information back to your party after 7pm on election eve, that information is public data. The reason that this after 7pm is so important is, of course, at 7pm the polls close, which means that everyone stops voting and that data can no longer influence anyone or anyone’s vote. Therefore it is public data and yet the Electoral Commission says we don’t want you to have it though. It’s public data but we don’t want you to have it. I sent an official information request a month ago or more.
asking for all of the documents that we were asking our scrutineers to pick up information on. And basically I got a letter back saying there’s 2,700 voting places in New Zealand, it’s much too much information for us to collect, we’re denying you the Official Information Act request.
MW: So what you’re saying is that there’s plenty of opportunities in this procedure That could allow for skull-duggery so to speak to manifest a new set of numbers and There is no scrutiny Independent scrutiny along that way and any at any of those points is that correct?
BC: If you are dealing with the Electoral Commission, they always go, we have independent auditors and they go through the whole process and that is right. I go back to, rather than calling it independent scrutiny, I would say public scrutiny. The reason being is we don’t want some independent auditor that’s paid by the government to audit it. Because, any employee, it’s like in Black’s Law.
According to Black’s Law, an employee is a servant of the employer. Therefore, the moment you get that employee-employer relationship, you get that subservience to the employer. You do what you are told. So if they say, we want you to audit this, this and this, you audit it. If they don’t tell you to audit this, this and this, those are the places where you need to be auditing because that’s the pieces that they’re holding, they’re keeping secret. So, yes, we need much more public scrutiny. My personal opinion after all of this is we need to completely remove the Electoral Commission because it has well overstated its role.
MW: So what we’re talking about, the sitting government controls the complete electoral system. And all the people that are involved in the electoral system are employees of the electoral commission who are driven by policy and procedure by the sitting government
BC: Yes, that’s the whole irony.
MW: That’s staggering. So, in short, if it wasn’t for your project, the Electoral Integrity Project, we would not have any public scrutiny whatsoever over our election.
MW: So in summary, after all these years, I mean, you’ve been looking at this for many, many years. You’ve been involved in the trenches. You’ve been put yourself and many others in right in the front line. What’s your summary?
BC: We can’t fix the system because the moment you fix the system, you’re going to retain enough elements within that system that it can rebuild again. And the finances and the money basically supporting this whole system is so huge. It’s probably beyond most people’s understanding or comprehension of what money is or the power basically is. So no, I can see that the system is going to have to go down.
We need really to return to people governance as opposed to government. Government is basically a group of people controlling our minds. That’s what government is. Govern is to control, meant is mind. So basically, we need to get back to replacing the institution that we’ve got, this corporate institution that calls itself government, we need to go back to before 1986. We need to get the people to go back to Parliament.
No, scrutineers aren’t employed. The scrutineering is simply a voluntary role. Because basically on the eve of the election, at 7 p.m. and most electorates, all of the scrutineers were told to leave.
My personal opinion after all of this is we need to completely remove...