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Viewer voting foulup mars first leaders' debate

The first leaders' debate last night was marred by TVNZ's viewer voting system crashing — then coughing up what seemed like a rogue result.

Via its website and a txt option, the broadcaster asked, "Which leader impressed you the most in tonight's debate?"

61% voted John Key and 39% David Cunliffe.

The result drew on Facebook and Twitter, where the social media mob thought the Labour leader the clear winner.

It also ran counter to snap polls conducted by other media, and the verdict of almost all the political pundit — including TVNZ political editor Corin Dann, who said Mr Cunliffe was the winner on points.

Many on Twitter thought the cost of the txt vote option (75c) would have skewed voting toward Mr Key.

So what happened?

"Early in the debate, the server for online voting crashed when it was overwhelmed with a much higher response rate than anticipated. It was down for a total of 40 minutes, and no votes were collected online during that time, only by txt," TVNZ spokeswoman Sara Cairney told NBR last night.

"All votes that were made were counted.

"There were three times as many responses to this debate than for the same debate at the last election. 45,898 votes were counted in total. 34,802 by text, and 11,096 online," Ms Cairney said.

"We will be able to fix the problem to allow for a greater capacity for the next debate, which is with the minor parties on Friday 5 September."

The third and final debate is between Mr Key and Mr Cunliffe again, on Wednesday 17 September.

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

In all fairness to both the viewers and the leaders, they should not have released the results if there was a flaw in collecting the votes. That would have been less damaging to TVNZ's credibility than a result which is at such odds with other polls. Also, did they not do load testing on their system beforehand?

When I saw TVNZ's poll result I new it was flawed. Cunliffe was certainly strong in his debate and won that round. Anyway, I wont pay attention to their poll results in future, because it was probably rigged!

Server crashed. Probably means someone deployed a bot.

Chris: any chance you can ask if text polling was limited to one vote per phone number? If not, what was the largest number of votes from one number?

> Server crashed. Probably means someone deployed a bot.

Or the server/app just wasn't able to handle hundreds of concurrent users making a bunch of uncachable requests (the actual votes).

Surprise, surprise...Utterly incompetent - and too many polls in recent years have apparently been rigged in favour of National. (And no, I'm not a Labour supporter.)

Hmm, blames a conspiracy. Nope, not a Labour support, you must be NZ First, Greens or Mana.

You'd best stock up on tinfoil to protect your head following the Sept 20 results...

The Nats always get better organised than one else when it comes to contributing to polls like this, letters to the editor, talkback etc. Plus it always annoys me that TVNZ uses text polls at 75cents per text to make money out of them declaring a "democratic" result that limits most participation to those who can afford to make multiple texts.

Unfortunately the MC allowed Cunliffe to interrupt incessantly, and by not reacting in the same rude and arrogant way, Key may have looked less strident than usual.
Those questions designed to "show" the humanity of the participants messed up the flow of the debate.
The Winston Peters allegation at short notice created a scenario where Key had to bat away more unproven allegations, detracting from what we had hoped would be a meaty issue driven debate. Astounded to see that Key didn't drive the point that RMA poison had driven away developers and builders, creating the current shortage. Lastly, Key missed the opportunity when Cunliffe talked about miners having to go to Australia to get jobs, whereas we all know the Labour's partner in the Greens will make sure none of those miners can ever come back!