Voters harassed at polling booth
Early voters in Invercargill have been subject to intimidation and verbal abuse on their way to cast their ballots.
An Invercargill woman contacted Stuff following an incident that occurred on Tuesday afternoon at the advance voting booth on Esk St.
The woman said she had observed a group of 10-12 youths verbally intimidating and using racial slurs against a couple, as they exited the polling station at the Menzies Building about 4pm.
"They were in the doorway, on the steps so you had to go past them to vote, with their scooters and bikes ... they wouldn't be older than 18.
"Only one or two people were doing the verbal attacking, while the others were laughing with them."
She said the man had an obvious disability and was struggling to walk, while the women helped him in and out of the building.
"There's people being racist and abusive to people just going out to do their duty as a citizen.
"Even inside when you're voting, you hear them saying eff this eff that every second word.
"There was no way I was going to confront them. I was scared they were going to turn on me or this couple, as there was no way he could defend himself with his disability."
The woman said the people inside the building at the polling booth had had ongoing problems with the group of young people.
Returning officer for Invercargill Sandra Robb said the electoral committee was aware of the reports of bad behaviour outside the polling stations.
"The electoral committee is extremely disappointed in reports we've heard about this behaviour near the voting place.
"It's an important part of our democracy, that people have free access to vote – our staff are welcoming of all voters who come to the voting place."
A police spokesperson said an officer had reported an incident where youths were yelling at people entering to vote on Esk Street just after 4pm, but no one has been arrested or charged.
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