It’s official: Lockwood design has lock on first flag referendum vote

Expect campaigns by advocates for change and incumbent flag to heat up over the next 20 weeks.

As foreshadowed by Friday’s release of the preliminary flag referendum results, Kyle Lockwood’s black, white and blue fern design will go up against New Zealand’s current ensign in the second binding vote early next year. (See full results below)

The headline results are as follows:

Kyle Lockwood’s black, white and blue fern – 50.58%

Kyle Lockwood’s red, white and blue fern – 49.4%

Aaron Dustin’s Red Peak was the third most popular design option, followed by Alofi Kanter's black and white silver fern, with Andrew Fyfe’s Koru a distant fifth.

Interestingly, there were more votes designated as “informal” than were cast for any of the options besides Mr Lockwood’s two iterations: 149,747 or 9.7% of all those cast.

An informal vote is defined as one where the voter has not clearly indicated their first preference, as opposed to an invalid vote, which is one on which the QR code is unreadable.

Informal votes include those that have been defaced, although no figures have been kept on how many fall into this category.

However, given NZ First’s Winston Peters was giving tutorials on how to deface one’s ballot paper (“Send them a message. We're writing ‘Keep Our Flag’ or ‘KOF’ on the voting paper”) and the popularity of photos featuring protest votes on NZ Twitter, it’s surely safe to assume a significant number of the informals were indeed fact voters “sending a message” about their disapproval of the referendum process.

That could mean the number of enrolled voters who positively participated in the poll was under 40%.

Whatever the case, some of the people have spoken and they’ve resoundingly said that they’d like some variation of a fern design on the NZ flag going forward, thanks very much.

The final vote to decide between the current flag and the confirmed pretender to the nation’s poles is scheduled to run from 3-24 March next year.

An October UMR poll showed the incumbent flag would handily beat any of the alternatives.  As they say, however, a week is a long time in politics and five months is, oh, about 20 times longer than that, so expect to see a lot more of the below from the prime minister and other change advocates between now and March:

Those who have sworn an undying fealty to the current flag – or intend to vote for it as the least worst option – can perhaps comfort themselves with the thought that, if Mr Lockwood’s design does win through in March, there’s the possibility (albeit a remote one) of Sean Plunket being retrospectively charged with dishonouring the flag under the Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981.

RAW DATA: First Referendum on the New Zealand Flag - Final Results by Count Report

(Click to zoom)

Final Results - Turnout by Electorate Report (see here)

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