21 Sep 2017

Petitioners call to allow 'ghost' votes after woman's death

7:45 pm on 21 September 2017

The death of a young Northland woman has sparked a petition to change the laws around people who vote early, but die before an election.

Mehara Tamaki died after casting her vote in the 2017 election, but it will no longer be counted.

Mehara Tamaki died after casting her vote in the 2017 election, but it will no longer be counted. Photo: Supplied

Mehara Tamaki, 19, died this month and her whānau and friends are looking to honour her by pushing the government to change the law.

Under current rules, the vote of anybody who passes away after making an early vote will not be counted.

Makoare Hoterene, who launched the petition on change.org, said his whānau was looking to make Mehara's vote count.

"I think she would be smiling, I think she'd be very happy to know her dreams and her aspirations are going to continue."

Mr Hoterene said he was overwhelmed by the response to the petition, which currently has more than 1000 supporters.

"I would just like to express my thanks to those who have supported and got behind the kaupapa - no words can describe how we feel at this time."

Mehara's cousin Huhana Lyndon said Mehara was passionate about her community and advocating for rangatahi to vote.

"She was there the day the door opened [for voting] - it was her first time voting."

Ms Lyndon said Mehara, who was working towards becoming a lawyer, fit a lot into her 19 years.

She was looked upon as a future Te Tai Tokerau leader, Ms Lyndon said.

"If there was an issue that needed advocacy she was there, she stood up for the needy and she was a voice for the young people. She will be sorely missed by the community."

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said she understood there was huge sadness and disappointment, but Mehara's advance vote would not be able to be counted.

The spokesperson said Section 178 (4) of the Electoral Act 1993 stated that where a person who had voted in an election died before the close of the day before polling day, the returning officer shall on receiving from a Registrar of Births and Deaths notification of that person's death disallow that person's vote.

That includes both the party and candidate vote.

If someone dies on election day itself, their vote would still count.

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