Transparency in 150 Words?
Candidate statements are an important part of the election process. These appear in the booklets that arrive in the post with each set of voting papers. The statements explain in 150 words or less as much as the candidate wants you to know about them that can be crammed into the word limit. This is fine for candidates who prefer a few catchy slogans and don’t mind voters not knowing much about their background or intentions. But for candidates who think transparency is important, it’s frustrating.
There are quite a few things voters might be interested in – should be interested in. Things like background (vocationally), experience (local government, governance), organisations associated with, hobbies and recreations, political affiliations, declarations of interest, reasons for standing, specific interests, what they hope to achieve. That’s already 10 potential topics. To cover them all a candidate could only offer about 15 words on each one – a short sentence.
Website Address and Affiliation
I’d noticed that in previous elections, some candidates offered voters a link to a website they’d set up to give voters a better idea of who they might be voting for. They included the website address within their candidate statement. That seemed a very good idea and I decided to do the same thing. I set up a website (with heaps of help) to let voters know what to expect from me. And I included the website address at the top of my candidate profile. I submitted the statement with my nomination on 9 August, ahead of the deadline of 12 August.
One of the reasons for submitting ahead of the deadline was to allow for any discussion on any of the content of my nomination. Having a website address was uncommon, as was having an affiliation that wasn’t a political party or ‘Independent’. (Mine was listed as ‘Climate – Buses – Water – Air’.) I therefore sought reassurance that everything was in order and this was given on 10 August.
The Affiliation Mistake
After nominations closed, the full lists were published in the Otago Daily Times on 13 August, as well on websites. This was when I realised that my affiliation had disappeared. Phone calls to the Electoral were successful in getting my affiliation reinstated on the websites, and an assurance that it would appear in the Candidate Booklet and on the ballot paper.
The Website Address Error
When browsing the Otago Regional Council website on 4 September, and checking my Profile Statement, I realised that my website address was missing. I immediately emailed the Otago Regional Council to ask why it was missing.
I was phoned by the Chief Returning Officer the next day. He informed me that my website address had been deleted from my Profile Statement in error. By mistake. Without informing me. He was very apologetic. He advised me it was impossible to amend the printed booklets or add anything to the voter packs before distribution. I asked for my Candidate Statement to be reprinted with the website address and distributed to the same addresses that the voting papers went to. Apparently this wasn’t possible either. I was gutted.
The Chief Returning Officer advised that the best they could do was make a media release, and this went out to media outlets on 13 September. I approached the Otago Daily Times myself on 15 September and a brief mention of the error appeared in the Otago Daily Times on 16 September. This didn’t include my website address so did little to compensate for the error.
Fortunately, I wasn’t counting on any help with overcoming the error by this stage. I’d already decided to get some flyers printed myself, as many as we could afford and get distributed ourselves in about a week. That’s another story.