Last week, observers uncovered incontrovertible evidence of voter fraud. These findings rocked the world, causing an upset in the results of 2020's biggest leadership race and raising awareness of just how fragile our institutions truly are. We are, of course, talking about the most important electoral contest of our era: New Zealand’s Bird Of The Year.
In a statement from organizer Forest & Bird, we learn that the kiwi pukupuku (or “little-spotted kiwi) was formerly holding the lead in the nation’s Bird Of The Year/Te Manu Rongonui O Te Tau race. The data scientists who monitor these elections noticed, however, that more than 1500 of the kiwi pukupuku’s votes had been cast within about two hours from the same IP address in the middle of the night last Monday.
Spokesperson Laura Keown said “all of our birds deserve a fighting chance” but that “they’ll have to play by the rules like all of the other birds to win the competition.” The fraudulent votes were soon removed. “If you really love the kiwi pukupuku, get out and campaign for them,” Keown said last week. “We don’t want to see any more cheating.”
The bird’s “campaign manager” Emma Rawson also disavowed voting fraud, saying that the “little-spotted kiwi represents New Zealanders’ values of democracy, fairness, equality, and honesty.” Perhaps Rawson was just trying to shed suspicion, keeping the spotlight away from her in case forensic investigators looked into a possible link between her campaign headquarters and the IP address that sent the 1500+ votes.
Regardless, the rightful winner has now been declared. The kākāpō (or “moss chicken”) took home this year’s Bird Of The Year title, marking “the first time any bird has won [the contest] more than once” according to Keown. She also points out that the kākāpō triumphed over an 11-year old sex scandal—when footage of it humping zoologist Mark Carwadine’s head went viral—to achieve its victory. While we’re happy to see the proper bird get its due, even the top prize probably isn’t much consolation for the fact that it’s also a critically endangered species. Only 213 kākāpō currently exist.
“We really need to protect and restore the places our birds call home,” Keown says in a statement on the kākāpō’s big win. “New Zealand can and should be full of birds for future generations, and future Bird Of The Year competitions.”
Protecting bird contest democracy was just the start. Now, the world needs to help protect the bird candidates, too.
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