Voting Irregularities

I know what you’re thinking…”Is he really going to step into the milieu of this election? He’s a priest and should stay out of politics and stick to matters of the Faith.” Despite these imagined misgivings, I am indeed jumping into voting fraud and suspicious voting patterns…But then the US presidential elections are not the only elections underway in the world.

New Zealand holds an annual election for “Bird of the Year.” The incumbent was a kakapo, also called an “owl parrot,” “night parrot” or commonly dubbed “the mighty moss chicken,” the green-feathered bird is also nocturnal and cannot fly, but climbs well.The kakapo is critically endangered; the total known adult population is 209 living individuals, all of which are named and tagged. As one might imagine, its endangered status might well offer a sentimental advantage in the election.

Forest & Bird, a independent conservation organization in New Zealand, has been holding elections for Bird of the Year for 15 years. This year, the competition received over 55,500 votes. The win didn’t come without scandal, however. According to a statement from Forest & Bird, 1,500 fraudulent votes were found for another bird candidate, the kiwi pukupuku/little-spotted kiwi, and were removed from the competition. The “illegal votes,” which were submitted using a suspicious email account and came from the same IP address in Auckland, briefly pushed the country’s kiwi pukupuku bird into the lead, a brazen meddling attempt which sent officials and campaign managers into a flap. Those votes were immediately disregarded, organizers said.

New Zealand’s Antipodean albatross, also known as the toroa, was the favorite to win, leading polls in recent weeks. That was until the kakapo overtook it in the race’s final moments. In addition, the endangered toroa/antipodean albatross actually won most first-choice votes — but, under the competition’s preferential system, the kākāpō finished victorious. An reminder that “electoral college”-like controversies are not limited to the United States.

The Bird of the Year contest is no stranger to allegations of voter misconduct. In 2019, officials were forced to defend claims that Russians were unfairly attempting to interfere with the outcome after hundreds of international votes were registered. In 2018, it emerged that one person had cast an estimated 3,000 votes for New Zealand’s rare shag species. The fraudster’s attempt to overthrow the competition came just one year after fake email addresses were set up by cunning voters attempting to sway the vote in favor of the white-faced heron, according to Radio New Zealand. In recent weeks, local media reported that birds attempting to extend their fan base had flocked to Twitter, Tinder and TikTok in a bid to win votes. Typically, the competition generates around 40,000 votes across a scoreboard of more than 70 entrants. More than 55,000 votes were cast in the contest that elected the kakapo the country’s top bird — the largest turnout to date.

There was some controversy as BNN called the election before the official tally.

And in perhaps an example for our own political system, the Toroa campaign gracefully conceded the vote even though it had won the popular vote.

Just thought you would want to know. I hope you enjoyed the post.

3 thoughts on “Voting Irregularities

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