High Court of the South Pacific
[2402.HQ] Voting Requirements in Multi-Round Elections
Does Citizenship Act 2.2b, which requires that citizens “cast a ballot in all elections in which they are eligible to vote,” apply individually to each round of a multi-round election?
Summary of the Opinion
It is the opinion of the Court that all stages in a multi-round election constitute a single election, and thus, voting in either (or both) round(s) of the election would satisfy the requirement for retaining citizenship to cast a ballot in every election. Article 3 Section 1 of the Elections Act supports this by declaring the Delegate election (the election in question) a single election. In effect, it essentially makes it optional for citizens who cast a ballot in the first round to cast a ballot in the second round or, alternatively, gives citizens a chance to retain their citizenship if they did not vote in the first round.
Justice GRIFFINDOR delivered the opinion, signed also by Justice PRONOUN
The High Court has been petitioned by the Election Commissioner, Kris Kringle, to interpret and clarify provisions within regional law under its authority found in Article VII, Section 6 of the Charter (1). The clarification sought relates to provisions in the Citizenship Act, specifically Article 2, Section 2, Clause B of the Citizenship Act. The aforementioned law states that citizens must vote in all elections they are eligible to vote in order to maintain citizenship. The existence of a multi-round election left confusion on whether a citizen had to vote in all rounds of the election and, if yes, how eligibility for the second round could be determined.
Looking at laws on the books, the Court has a few relevant provisions to consider when crafting its opinion. The first provision to consider is Article 3, Section 1 of the Elections Act, which states that “the Delegate will be elected in a two-round process constituting a single election” (2). This section is straightforward and explicitly notes that despite running on different platforms (offsite forums vs in-game polls), the two separate ballots constitute one election for Delegate.
The second provision that should be considered is the provision relating to continued eligibility for citizenship. Article 2, Section 2 of the Citizenship Act states that all citizens must “cast a ballot in all elections in which they are eligible to vote” (3). This provision of the law is also straightforward and makes it clear the voting requirements for citizens in all elections.
When these two provisions are considered together, it becomes clear that while citizens must vote in all elections, the Delegate election itself is one election that happens to have two rounds. This begs whether voting in each round of the Delegate election is required to maintain citizenship. The Court finds this not to be the case. By casting a ballot in either round of the election, a citizen fulfills the requirement to vote in all elections in which they are eligible. Voting in one round but not the other is akin to spoiling your ballot in single-round elections, which, according to the Assembly Record (4), was allowed explicitly to prevent mistakes in a cast ballot from impacting continued citizenship.
It is worth considering how the Election Commissioner would verify whether a citizen had voted, particularly in the second round of the Delegate election. For the first round of the election, it is clear who is eligible to vote, and the list of voting citizens can be cross-checked against the list of eligible citizens to determine which citizens met the voting requirements in that round. Moving on to the second round of the Delegate Election, Article 3, Section 3, Clause A of the Elections Act states that “eligible members may cast their ballots” and further defines the eligible members as “Native World Assembly members” (5). The Election Commissioner noted in their amicus brief that they can determine whether a member is a “resident” and a “World Assembly” nation but not a “native” nation. “Native” is defined by NationStates as “having more influence in [the South Pacific] than in any other region” (6).
The inability of the Election Commissioner to determine citizen eligibility in the second round of the Delegate election stems from two factors. First, without a way to determine if a nation is a native, the Election Commissioner cannot assume they were eligible because there is a chance the nation is, in fact, not a native and thus not eligible for the second round. Second, Article 3, Section 3, Clause A mentions “members” voting, not citizens. Citizens are members of the region, but not all members are citizens. The criteria to meet citizenship requirements differ from the requirements to be eligible to vote in the second round of the Delegate election. This mismatch in eligibility criteria means that there is a possibility for a citizen to be eligible to vote in the first round but still removed from the rolls because they did not fulfill the member eligibility requirements for the second round. To avoid possible unintentional disenfranchisement, the Court must conclude that the second round of the Delegate election alone cannot be used to determine loss of eligibility for citizenship. However, suppose a citizen did not vote in the first round but did vote in the second round. In that case, they should be entitled to continued citizenship because they proved themselves eligible to vote by voting and thus met the requirements for continued citizenship eligibility.
As the Court nears the end of the opinion, it will summarize the case again. Despite taking place on two different platforms with two different constituencies, the Delegate election is still considered one election under the law. As a result, a citizen needs only cast a ballot in at least one round of the election to be considered eligible for continued citizenship after the election. Further, since the Citizenship Committee cannot conclusively determine which citizens are eligible to vote in the second round, they cannot use not voting in the second round to justify a non-maintaining of citizenship on otherwise compliant citizens. However, citizens can still vote in the second round to maintain citizenship eligibility if they did not vote in the first round of the Delegate election since they proved their eligibility to vote by voting.
Footnotes and References
(1) Charter of the Coalition of the South Pacific; Article VII, Section 6 (2024). The MATT-DUCK Law Archive.
(2) Elections Act; Article 3, Section 1 (2024). The MATT-DUCK Law Archive.
(3) Citizenship Act; Article 2, Section 2 (2023). The MATT-DUCK Law Archive.
(4) Assembly Discussion of the Voter Registration Legislation; Retrieved from: [2339.AB] Amended Voter Registration Bill - #23 by Pronoun
(5) Elections Act; Article 3, Section 3, Clause A (2024). The MATT-DUCK Law Archive.
(6) [the South Pacific] is actually “your” in the on-site description of “Native” but was changed for clarity. The description of “Native” is found within the poll building area of the South Pacific’s Admin Panel.
Submission: 24 Jan 2024 | Determination: 25 Jan 2024 | Opinion: 01 Feb 2024