BANGKOK — The Election Commission confirmed Tuesday that all ballots from New Zealand would be voided because they were delivered too late.
As several related agencies took turn dodging responsibility over the late delivery that triggered public outrage, the commission ruled unanimously that the 1,542 overseas ballots had been invalidated because it received them after vote counting for the Sunday’s election had already been concluded.
It added that it has set up a special committee to investigate the delay.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry – accused of not picking up the ballots when they arrived – apologized earlier today but blamed a communication failure and repeated transfer delays for the mishap, adding that it couldn’t pick them up due to bureaucratic reasons.
“The Foreign Affairs Ministry would like to offer the sincerest apologies for what happened,” the statement reads. “All related officials … had worked hard to sort and deliver ballots to polling stations nationwide, which are considered to be very successful. The late delivery only happened with the ballots from New Zealand.”
The Thai Airways president said the airline had informed related authorities beforehand that the ballots would arrive Saturday night in Thailand, but no one went to pick them up. They were eventually retrieved Sunday night after polling stations had closed.
According to the ministry, the ballots were flown on March 18 from Wellington to Auckland by Air New Zealand and their transfer was scheduled via a Thai Airways flight leaving for Bangkok the following day.
However, the ballots were delivered to the kingdom’s airline March 21, according to Air New Zealand. The ministry said the ballots were flown March 23 out of Auckland, and that it did not know why Thai Airways held them for two days.
The ministry acknowledged the airline informed it in advance of the delivery time, but said it could not pick them up that day because they arrived after other advanced ballots – domestic and overseas – had already been delivered to their designated polling stations. It said extra paperwork was needed for the pickup and delivery due to the delay.
The Thai Embassy in Wellington has said it was “very disappointed and sorry” that the ballots could be invalidated. It said elections in New Zealand were held within the voting period set by the commission and that all ballots were sorted and delivered on time.
Update: This article has been updated with the Election Commission’s additional statement about its ruling decision.