Viewer voting foulup mars first leaders' debate

Cunliffe & Key during last night's debate (TVNZ)

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.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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