Stop the Steal: Voter Fraud Creeps Into ‘Bird of the Year’ Competition

Photo of a baby kiwi—presumably not the same kiwi that’s trying to steal the election.

Photo of a baby kiwi—presumably not the same kiwi that’s trying to steal the election.
Photo: Robin Van Lonkhuijsen (Getty Images)

Are New Zealanders the most enviable people in the world? First, they virtually eliminated the spread of covid-19 over the summer, and now their big election scandal is over the bird of the year.

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Around 1 a.m. on Monday, alarm bells went off in the war room of New Zealand’s Bird of the Year 2020 competition. Organizers of the contest said in a statement that the number of votes for the kiwi pukupuku skyrocketed, raising the attention of Dragonfly Data Science, a consultancy firm that volunteered to monitor the election’s integrity.

Yvan Richard, a Dragonfly data scientist, told the New York Times that he discovered that someone using a single IP address managed to slip 1,500 fraudulent ballots into the totals in order to give the little spotted kiwi a bump. “All of our birds deserve a fighting chance, especially this little manu, our smallest kiwi, which is so threatened by predators that it is extinct on mainland New Zealand outside of predator-free sanctuaries,” a spokesperson for the competition said. “If you really love the kiwi pukupuku, get out and campaign for them in Bird of the Year. We don’t want to see any more cheating.”

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Organizers provided a chart of the smoking gun data.

Organizers provided a chart of the smoking gun data.
Image: Forest & Bird

There wasn’t much cloak and dagger cyber-craft involved in catching the ballot box stuffing, Edward Abraham, Dragonfly’s founder, told the Times. “When a bird gets a whole lot of votes in the middle of the night and zooms from the middle of the pack to the top of the ranks, that’s a sign that something’s going on,” Abraham said. Dragonfly’s Richard has experience with this sort of thing; in 2017, he discovered a network of email accounts controlled by a single bird enthusiast who appeared to be trying to swing the election for the matuku moana.

The Bird of the Year contest was founded to raise awareness on the struggles of New Zealand’s native bird species, and it has since become a popular annual ritual online. The kiwi pukupuku is now extinct on New Zealand’s mainland and it still has its supporters who won’t allow this nefarious action to tarnish their candidate. Emma Rawson, the kiwi pukupuku campaign manager, told Radio New Zealand, “As Aotearoa’s national emblem, little-spotted kiwi represents New Zealanders’ values of democracy, fairness, equality, and honesty.” Rawson stated without equivocation that “voter fraud is not the kiwi way.”

Voters still have until Sunday to get their ballots in. Everyone should vote for this surly duck, but competition is getting stiff with New Zealand’s Adult Toy Megastore stepping in to throw its considerable weight behind the hihi, a “polyamorous, sexually fluid bird with big testicles.” Like New Zealand’s political elections, voting is decided using the ranked-choice system, the most enlightened way to count votes. Damn you, New Zealand!

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