Interest in the vote had been intense, as it always is. The stakes were high and supporters on all sides were becoming increasingly passionate.
Allegations of election fraud muddied the waters and passions ran even higher.
Was it possible the results would be too tainted to be accepted by all sides? Would the country never know for sure which bird came out on top in 2020?
That’s right — this mercifully isn’t going to be a column about Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Instead, this is going to be a column about the national vote for Bird of the Year in New Zealand.
Forest & Bird, a conservation organization in that country, invites residents every year to vote for which feathered creature they would like to be named bird of the year. The vote is an effort to make people aware of the perilous situation in which many of New Zealand’s birds find themselves.
According to Forest & Bird, 80 percent of the country’s native birds are threatened or at risk of extinction.
They come with exotic names such as king shag, southern Fiordland tokoeka, masked (blue-faced) booby and the yellow eyed penguin, or hoiho.
The annual vote apparently has quite the following in New Zealand. Even the prime minister has her favourite — the black petrel.
So you can imagine the consternation that must have gripped the nation earlier this month when the spectre of voter fraud reared its ugly head.
Forest & Bird announced days before voting ended that it had received 1,500 votes from the same email address for the little spotted kiwi (kiwi pukupuku).
“That is an amazing bird — it deserves all the support — but unfortunately these votes had to be disallowed and they’ve been taken out of the competition,” a spokesperson said.
No one took the decision to New Zealand’s supreme court, however, and the vote continued.
The eventual winner was the kakapo, described as the world’s heaviest parrot. This flightless bird was brought back from the brink of extinction in the 1990s but remains on the endangered list.
It’s not the first time that New Zealand’s bird of the year election has featured voting irregularities. Hundreds of questionable votes were found for the shag in 2018, and last year the white-faced heron received more than 100 illegal votes.
I guess New Zealanders really like their birds.