So the first round of the flag referendum is done (bar the formal tidying up). What, if anything, does it tell us?
So it transpires* that we'll be voting in March next year on whether to retain a colonial relic or to adopt something that looks like a cheap souvenir beach-towel. Democracy, hell yeah! My kids will have fun making that choice!!
On the vote itself, what can we say?
First up, preferential votes changed things! Had this been a simple one-tick FPP vote, then our "preferred alternative" would have been the Silver Fern (Red, White and Blue) option. However, it seems that people who had prior-preferences for flags with black in them carried these over through into their later orderings, such that the Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue) option came out (narrowly) on top.
I guess that once you've tried black, you really don't go back.
Second, while overall turnout was 48.16% of enrolled voters, only 41.3% actually expressed a preference for either of the final two Silver Fern options. That's because there were 148,022 informal votes (or 9.7% of the total cast), as well as some 66,000-odd people who preferred other flag options and didn't say which of the final two they liked better.
Third, the figure for informal votes was a lot higher than in the last postal referendum (the CIR on asset sales in 2013). Back then, only 4000 (or 0.3%) of votes were invalid. So there's been a 3233% increase in the incidence this time about. Even given for the difference in voting methods - this referendum required preference ordering, rather than simply ticking one option - it seems extraordinarily unlikely that this increase is just due to voter confusion. There was a fairly hefty protest vote here.
Fourth, and following on, the turnout figures now will be spun in predictable ways. John Key and change supporters will point to the fact that the overall number of voters and percentage of participants is higher than in 2013. This shows how engaged and involved the electorate is with the issue! The exercise really is worth while!!
Andrew Little and opponents of John Key (although, it should be noted, not actually opponents of change per se!) will note that actually only 9,000 more counting votes were cast this time around ... which actually amounts to just 43.4% of enrolled voters ... some 2% lower than in 2013. And that last referendum was non-binding in nature! And the Government ignored the outcome anyway!! So what a waste of time all of this is!!!
Fortunately, with Christmas just a couple of weeks away, we can now forget all about this issue. Until the New Year, that is, when the real lobbying will begin. So as you enjoy your Holiday Tofurkey, just remember these competing images capture the next three months of your life.
Season's best to you all!
* This conclusion applies even should some unexpected change occur when the final results are announced next week - a beach-towel with black in the corner is much the same as a beach-towel with red in the corner.