Election 2020

Te reo, Covid precautions at heart of voting rejig

Hand sanitiser, bring-your-own pen, and more physically distanced voting won't be the only changes this time around 

Officials have rejigged our voting procedures to allow an election to go ahead even if the country is at Alert Level 2 on election day.

Those measures include hand sanitiser at voting booths, reducing queues through greater advance voting, and larger voting places to accommodate physical distancing.

They won't be the only changes to come through at this election. Voters will have the opportunity to vote at a te reo polling station and one located inside a mosque. 

Chief electoral officer Alicia Wright said te reo would be the primary language used by staff at one voting place in Huntly. The first time this has been done in our nation's history.

"One of the things we've done this time is we have worked closely with communities across the country around identifying places that work best for those communities."

Kilbirnie mosque in Wellington will be used as a voting place too. Part of a push to use larger public spaces like community halls to accommodate new physical distancing measures. 

However, that drive for larger venues will see the cancellation of a planned attempt to allow people to vote at their local supermarket. 

"Supermarket foyers just aren't big enough ...[but] the groundwork has been laid for us to do it in elections in the future."

Covid-19 and the election

Election procedures have been set up to allow people to vote at Alert Level 2.

The electoral commission was working on what might need to be done if a higher alert level was in place by September 19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has the power to delay the election, but this expires on August 12 when Parliament is dissolved.

After that date the commission can delay the election for up to seven days. Something that could be needed if some regions went into lockdown. 

Voters will be required to use hand sanitiser before and after voting. They would also be encouraged to bring their own pen. 

A large number of advance voting places will be made available to minimise queues on election day. Especially on the weekend before the election when 1500 advance voting places will go up. 

There will be 2500 voting places in total this year, up from 2336 in 2017.

"What we're trying to do is ensure there is a voting place within 5km of every single voter," Wright said.

Results and election night

Preliminary results from the counting of advance votes and those cast on election day will be available on the night. 

However, Wright signalled that the ability for voters to enrol and vote on the day could see an increase in the number of special votes being cast. These wouldn't be counted until after election night. 

Referendums on euthanasia and legalising the recreational use of cannabis will go to voters on the same ballot, but will be counted after election day.

The first preliminary results for both referendums will go up on October 2.

"The legislation around the referendum frameworks indicated that the general election count had to take priority," Wright said.

"There's an enormous number of people coming in to do that advance count and to do that election night count. There isn't additional capacity or space to do that referendum count as well."

Final results for both the election and the referendum will be announced on October 9. 

Dates

August 12 - Dissolution of Parliament

August 20 - Party nominations due

August 21 - Individual nominations due

August 22 - Candidate information released by the electoral commission

September 2 - Overseas voting starts - overseas voters can download voting papers at vote.nz or vote in person at some overseas posts

September 5 - Advance voting opens

September 18 - All election advertising must be taken down by midnight

September 19 - Election day

October 2 - Preliminary referendum results released

October 9 - Official results published

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