For most people it only takes five minutes to vote at election time. That’s how long it takes to be given a ballot paper, go behind a screen, make two ticks and put the paper in a ballot box. Job done. There’s a bit of thinking that goes into how a person votes, but actually voting is easy.
The 2017 General Election will be held in September when New Zealanders decide who will represent them in Parliament for the next three years. The MPs and parties who are elected will make decisions that affect voters’ everyday lives, for example how schools and hospitals are run.
“In New Zealand we are lucky to have free and fair elections and the democratic right to vote,” says the Electoral Commission’s Chief Electoral Officer, Alicia Wright. “Everyone has a reason to vote and should make their voice heard.”
To be eligible to enrol and vote a person must be 18 years old or older, be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and have lived in New Zealand for one year or more continuously at some point.
People can enrol to vote right up until 22 September, but can’t enrol on election day itself, which is Saturday 23 September. Voters who have moved house since the last election need to fill out an enrolment form to make sure that they are enrolled at the right address.
Those enrolled by 23 August will receive an EasyVote pack in the mail before the election. The pack includes lists of the candidates and the parties and the locations of voting places, as well as an EasyVote card, which makes voting quicker on the day. Voters who enrol after 23 August will need to fill in a form and cast a special vote, which takes a bit longer.
To enrol or to update your details on the electoral roll, visit www.elections.org.nz. Enrolment forms are also available at PostShops, by calling 0800 36 76 56, or by texting your name and address to 3676.
Early voting, called advance voting, starts on 11 September. People don’t need a reason to vote in advance and it’s an easy option for people who will be working or away on election day, Saturday 23 September.
New Zealand’s electoral system is called MMP, or Mixed Member Proportional. Under MMP, each voter has two votes, a party vote and an electorate vote. The party vote largely decides the total number of seats each political party will get in Parliament. Parties with a bigger share of the party vote will get more seats in Parliament. The electorate vote decides who will represent each electorate, or area.
When a voter goes into a voting place they will be given one ballot paper. It will have a list of political parties on one side and a list of local candidates on the other. Voters need to place a tick by the name of the political party of their choice and a tick by the name of the candidate they would most like to represent their local area.
“There’s time between now and the election to work out which party and local candidate you want to vote for,” says Alicia Wright. “A good place to start is by talking to your friends and family about what’s important to you and your community.”
“Over the next few weeks there will be lots of news reports about the parties and candidates and what they stand for,” says Ms Wright. “Have a look at their websites or attend a local candidate meeting. There will also be online tools appearing soon like On the Fence and Vote Compass that can help you decide.
“The important thing is to get involved and take part,” says Ms Wright. “It’s easy to enrol and vote, so make sure you get to have your say.”
More information about enrolling and voting is available in 27 languages at www.elections.org.nz.
Brought to you by the Electoral Commission.