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Thousands give feedback on draft review of electoral laws

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Photo: New Zealand Electoral Commission

A review of New Zealand's electoral laws has received more than 2100 submissions on its draft recommendations in the space of a month.

The feedback has surpassed that received in the first phase of public consultation, which saw 1700 formal submissions over a roughly two-month period.

"We're getting a lot of people agreeing and disagreeing with what we say and that's really helpful to test our thinking," panel chairperson Deborah Hart said.

In early June, the review panel published its interim recommendations; suggesting the voting age be lowered to 16, a 3.5 percent party threshold, and a public referendum on a longer Parliamentary term.

It is now more than halfway through the second and final phase of public consultation.

"A range of stakeholders" including political parties, the Electoral Commission, academics, regulators and organisations representing unions, aged care, youth, ethnic communities, disabled communities and rainbow communities had made submissions, Hart said.

"We're hearing a lot about the improvements to MMP, voter eligibility and lots about political financing."

Commissioned by former justice minister Kris Faafoi, the independent panel was tasked to do a sweeping review of the country's electoral laws that have been subject to largely-piecemeal changes over the years.

While thousands of individuals and groups have now made formal submissions through the review process, any actual change will fall to the hands of lawmakers.

Past reports, like the Electoral Commission's 2012 review of MMP, have made recommendations politicians have not been willing to pick up.

Despite this, Hart said she was hopeful her team's work would lead to a better electoral law system.

"We are doing everything we can to provide a robust set of recommendations based on what we've heard from New Zealanders, the research that's out there and the best that there is of overseas jurisdictions.

"I think any government is going to be interested in those things. Whether they implement them or not will be up to them but the public has been quite vocal about many of these areas."

Public submissions are open online until 17 July before the panel hands its final report to the next government at the end of November.