Multiple voting charge admitted

A man with intellectual limitations has been given a suspended sentence after admitting voting 11 times in last year’s General Election.

The police’s details on the case do not disclose which party Michael Shane Turner voted for.

Christchurch District Court Judge John Strettell said the 45-year-old did know the difference between right and wrong but he had “a more limited understanding of the implications of this than one would expect of the general public”.

He refused an application by defence counsel Vicki Walsh for suppression of Turner’s name but did suppress one aspect of the case.

Turner pleaded guilty to the charge of voting multiple times – apparently all in his own name –  between September 11 and 23, 2017.

He cast an advance vote at a polling booth in a library on September 11, and cast six more advance votes at various locations around Christchurch over the next 10 days.

On election day, September 23, he cast four special votes at various locations.

The police summary of facts lists all the locations and dates.

All the votes were for the same party and candidate.

Turner told police he voted multiple times to boost the vote numbers for his chosen party, but said he did not know it was wrong to vote more than once.

Mrs Walsh said after he pleaded guilty that there were clearly “limitations” on Turner’s understanding but there was also anxiety and fear. A community worker accompanied Turner to the hearing.

Judge Strettell said Turner had been before the court several times, but there were significant gaps between his offending and he had appeared only once, on a minor charge, since 2001.

He ordered that Turner “come up for sentence within six months if called upon”, which means that if he offends again he can be recalled on this charge and sentenced on it. But otherwise there is no penalty.

The judge said the order would ensure Turner did not place himself in this position again.