Can John Key find out how I voted in the flag referendum?

We were asked through Fair Go's Facebook page whether there was something illegal about the flag referendum, since voting is supposed to be anonymous yet each ballot paper carries a QR code.

Voting is supposed to be anonymous, yet each ballot paper contains a code. Source: 1 NEWS

Our questioner wondered if that means it could be cross-checked to see who voted for what.

A QR code is like a barcode you can cram full of information.

Source: 1 NEWS

Apparently that QR code on your ballot paper contains a unique number that starts out tied to your name and is used to make sure no-one votes twice.

That means it is vital you don't mark any part of that QR code.

If you do, it won't be logged as a protest, probably just as an unreadable slip of paper. 

You'd hope the Electoral Commission makes sure the names are stripped off the QR codes before that list of numbers is used to validate your voting paper, rendering them anonymous.

I have more than hope, I have a strong certainty, but the Electoral Commission is understandably a bit coy about explaining its internal security measures, so that's the part we need to take on trust.

I'm not aware there's evidence of systemic voter fraud in New Zealand, so that trust is probably well-placed.

If you've mailed your ballot back already, that check of the now-anonymous QR code part is happening right now.

Later when voting has closed, electoral officials will count the valid votes.

Good news, a team of JPs supervised by a District Court judge will be checking the papers and trying to give you the benefit of the doubt – so if you ignore the instructions and put a tick in one box and crosses in all the rest for example, they might guess your intentions and count that as a one for the tick and nil preference for all the others.

That said it's best just to read the instructions with the paper and try to follow those instructions - rank them, from one-five, best not to skip any but it's OK to just put a one next to your top choice if you really can't decide.

Source: 1 NEWS

If there is one flag you hate a lot, give that a five then rank the rest backwards, but make sure you do all the way to one, or again it won't count.

If you want to protest the whole thing, bad news, there's no way to spoil the ballot in such a way that it will be counted as a protest, as opposed to say someone who just didn't understand how to vote.

As for which flag to choose, or whether the flag referendum (a) an awesome exercise in democracy (b) a massive sideshow (c) a waste of money, well we can't help you with that on Fair Go – though feel free to tell us which one you think is right.

But I am pretty sure John Key can't find out how I voted, unless I tell him myself.