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Confidentiality and the unpublished electoral roll Charles Mabbett
15 July 2014

voting

Did you know that not everyone has to have their details published on the electoral roll? This makes sense if you and your family members could face a personal risk if your information was accessible to people who may want to cause you harm.

With just a few months to go until the general election, everyone is being reminded to register on the electoral roll. But it is also a timely reminder to people who may face a threat to their safety that not everyone has to have their details published.

The Electoral Act, under section 115, says the Electoral Commission may include you on the unpublished roll if it would be prejudicial to your personal safety, or your family, to have your details on the printed roll.

It particularly applies to those of you who have a protection or restraining order against someone who knows you. It also includes members of the Police and their families.

This unpublished roll can only be viewed by the Registrar of Electors. According to the Ministry of Justice, there were 15,920 people registered to vote on the unpublished electoral roll, as of March this year.

If you think this applies to you, you could request that your information be included only on the confidential unpublished roll. To do so, you will need to download the unpublished roll application form from here. Or you can phone the Electoral Commission free on 0800 36 76 56, and they will post an application form to you.

You will need to give your full name, address, date of birth, contact telephone number and evidence of your situation, such as a copy of a protection order that is in force under the Domestic Violence Act, or a copy of a restraining order that is in force under the Harassment Act.

Other evidence of your personal circumstances can include a statutory declaration from a member of the Police about the threat to your personal safety or that of your family's, or a letter from a barrister or solicitor, employer or a Justice of the Peace that supports your application on the grounds of personal safety.

You remain on the unpublished roll until such time as your circumstances change. Your area Registrar of Electors will write to you from time to time to confirm that your circumstances are the same. You will also need to check your enrolment details and update them during enrolment update campaigns.

As your name will not appear on the printed electoral roll used on polling day, you will need to cast a special vote. These are available from the Returning Officer in your electorate ahead of Election Day or from any voting place on the actual day.

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  • I am interested to know what would need to be done to simplify the process one has to go through, to be on the confidential roll. Why do they need someone else to validate their need to be on it. If a person doesn't feel safe having that information public, that should be enough.

    As I said on Twitter, I feel that vulnerable people are being victimised (and possibly re-victimised) by the hoops they have to go to to be on the confidential roll. Providing "Evidence of your situation" requires visiting people and asking them for things and revisiting trauma - that in and of itself seems to be quite cruel, really ... If someone is scared, or simply wants to keep their details private, why isn't that enough?



    Posted by Styla73, 17/07/2014 8:58pm (3 years ago)

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  • Just to take the conversation wider for a second - what is the legal reason for publication of all of the data? Is it an effort to increase transparency and reduce the risk of electoral fraud?

    Posted by JC, 17/07/2014 9:43pm (3 years ago)

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  • We’re inviting the Electoral Commission to comment on the need for a public electoral roll. The Commission has to strike a balance between the privacy of voters and the transparency of the system. Having an open register of voters is integral to the conduct of free and fair elections, enabling participants to verify accountability in the electoral process.

    One concession to privacy is that there is no electronic version of the Electoral Roll for browsing online and it is an offence under section 117 of the Electoral Act to scan it. People have to physically go to a public library or a council office to see what is on a copy of the printed electoral roll. You can read section 117 here: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1993/0087/latest/DLM309410.html

    Only a person’s name, residential address and occupation is printed in the roll. A person’s full name is needed by the Electoral Commission to check that a person is enrolled correctly, and to distinguish people with the same or similar names. The date of birth shows the Registrar of Electors that a person is old enough to enrol and can also help distinguish between people with the same name.

    The Electoral Commission is also required by law to give local councils lists of electors to compile their electoral rolls. Electoral rolls are also used to randomly select potential jurors. Political parties, candidates and approved scientific or health researchers are also entitled to enrolment data. But an elector's date of birth is confidential and is never released.

    Posted by Office of the Privacy Commissioner, 18/07/2014 5:07pm (3 years ago)

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  • And this, I think, is the problem. For me, date of birth is a trivial privacy concern compared to my current street address. I can't think of a single issue with my birth date being communicated widely; my location, however, could be a pressing concern.

    Agglomerating the results to show # of residents at the stated address would be far more privacy friendly, while potentially being an even more effective way of ascertaining potential voter fraud. Yes, selected staff would still have access to this information, but with its use for sourcing addresses for jury service letters, it sounds like that will be unavoidable no matter how it's run.

    There's a dozen other ways you could re-cut the data to make it more privacy-friendly. Is the actual issue that those options would just be harder to do for the people that would have to implement the changes? Which is arguably a fairly weak excuse.

    Posted by JC, 18/07/2014 11:33pm (3 years ago)

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  • Hi there

    Section 115 of the Electoral Act sets out the requirements for a person to have their name placed on the Unpublished Electoral Roll. The Act clearly, without limiting the discretion of the Electoral Commission, requires the applicant to produce some supporting documentation with their application. The Electoral Commission, in applying its discretion, does not stipulate that another person must validate the application but the Commission does require some evidence that the publication of the person's name on the printed roll would be prejudicial to the personal safety of that person or their family.

    As people in the discussion have pointed out, the policy issue here is getting the right balance between personal safety and transparency of the electoral roll. If people have concerns about the current legislation, they may wish to raise them in the post-election select committee review undertaken by the Justice and Electoral Committee.

    You can find out more information about the review and how to make a submission after the election at:

    http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/SC/Details/JusticeElec/4/1/2/00DBHOH_BBSC_SCJE_1-Business-before-the-Justice-and-Electoral-Committee.htm

    Posted by Electoral Commission, 26/07/2014 12:43pm (3 years ago)

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  • Thank you for this opportunity to comment on a subject that has caused considerable concern in the community for some years.

    Our thoughts are these:

    1) The requirement for an open roll shows no respect or consideration to the many people who, for a variety of reasons, will not enrol because they fear having their addresses publicly exposed.

    2) A published roll that includes home addresses is unacceptable In this era when crime, violence, intimidation, stalking, and burglary are rife, and when many people feel vulnerable and have good reason to safeguard their privacy at any cost EVEN though it means losing the democratic right to vote. If there needs to be a public roll, and one wonders why it is deemed to be so essential, there should be no requirement at all for personal addresses to be included. These should be sacrosanct and entirely confidential to the Electoral Commission, and encrypted. Our preference would be for A PRIVATE ROLL

    3) The point that the electoral commission has so far failed to understand is that many of these people have strong reasons for safeguarding their addresses, but cannot verify their reasons evidentially with documents. Very often people do not go to the police when a potentially criminal event occurs. Included in this list also are those many rape victims who refuse to get involved with police and traumatising court appearances, and the victims of peadophiles who also for their own reasons refuse to open up their experiences to legal investigation.

    Why they don't go to the police is a subject involving lack of trust, dislike or fear of the police, unwillingness to drag children through interviews and possibly stir up more distress in doing so, or believing it is in the individual or the family's best interests ultimately not to open their trauma up to public examination, potential law suits, court appearances and the stress/trauma that accompanies this.

    Hence we see find many instances of people unable to produce any documented evidence that can be used when requesting registration on the PRIVATE electoral roll. And because of this, individuals in these situations feel they have no option but to disenfranchise themselves.

    5) It is well past time for the Electoral Commission to come out of its ivory tower and into the real world and gain some insight and empathy into the lives of fellow citizens who feel very vulnerable and particularly threatened by the legal requirement to enrol and expose their whereabouts to all who wish to discover them.

    6) Because it is every citizen's right to vote in a democracy, it requires the electoral commission to take into full consideration this group of 'undocumented' people, and find a way to enable them to vote without in any way endangering them, jeopardising their privacy and security,

    7) Finally, many have wondered whether judges, doctors and medical specialists, celebrities, the rich and famous, most of whom diligently avoid publishing their home addresses or phone numbers, are also encumbered with having to prove to the Electoral Commision via police documentation that they deserve to have their privacy respected and not appear on the public roll.

    Posted by Considerata, 18/09/2014 8:18am (3 years ago)

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  • I have just enquired at the electoral office about going on the unpublished role (and because of the nature of my work this would be possible.) However, I did not want to be un-contactable by 'legitimate' agencies eg for jury service so had hoped that the electoral commission could publish a P O Box or private bag address and keep for their own records my physical address.

    However, it seems that there is no middle road possible here at present.

    Any thoughts/advice?

    Posted by Marise, 23/11/2015 4:05pm (23 months ago)

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  • Four years ago I applied to be registered on the unlisted roll... and did take my protection order in as it needed to be viewed by the post shop staff (This is what I was told to do) upon doing so... Due to domestic violence I had to move yet again because these people published my details. (even though I had taken in the required information. Now this year I have questioned them again as they have me on the unlisted however I need to provide my information yet again. Their apologies for publishing my details has me afraid to do so again. And the lady I spoke with said... ohh it won't happen this time blah blah blah. And someone tried to contact you in regards as I needed to verify my documents and they couldn't contact me is why my details were published. My reply... well I was in hiding and had to actually move township due to my address being published.

    Reluctant to even vote as I am afraid of the same mistake happening again.

    Posted by Meme, 19/09/2017 7:17am (32 days ago)

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