New Zealand election 2017: How do I vote?

This year, the over-18s of New Zealand get the chance to decide what the next Government looks like.

Politicians elected by the public make decisions on behalf of voters, like whether certain laws should be introduced or changed.

Here's what you need to know in order to enrol and vote in the 2017 General Election - including how to vote early, how to vote from overseas and what happens if you’re at work on election day.

When is the election?

The election is on September 23.

In New Zealand, elections are held every three years and they are always on a Saturday to minimise clashing with work or religion. The Government chooses the election date, and may do so strategically.

When can I vote?

You can either vote on the day of the election - September 23 - or ahead of time from Monday September 11.

On election day community halls, schools and other public places will be open from 9am-7pm for voting. Teams will visit hospitals and rest homes so people with less mobility can vote.

How do I vote early?

More and more people have been casting early votes in recent years. You don’t need a special reason to vote early, and it’s pretty much the same process as voting on election day.

Selected polling booths across the country will be open for advance voting from Monday 11 September.

Information about where you can vote and opening hours will be available on the Electoral Commission website closer to election day.

How do I vote?

First you must enrol to vote. If you’re already enrolled but have since moved house, you’ll need to update your details.

To enrol either:

  • Go to www.elections.org.nz to enrol online
  • Download a form to be returned via freepost, via fax or scanning.
  • Visit a PostShop.
  • Get an enrolment form sent to your house by calling 0800 36 76 56 or texting your address to 3676. 

You need to enrol by September 22, the day before the election.

You'll be sent information about your local voting places as well as your EasyVote card a couple of weeks before the election. If you take the card along to the polling booth with you, it’ll make the process faster - but it doesn't matter if you forget it.

It’s easiest to vote inside your electorate. If you vote away from home there will be an extra form to fill out.

Do I have to enrol?

Yes. You’re legally required to enrol if you are eligible to vote.

You could be fined $100 if you don’t enrol - and $200 if you’ve been fined before and still haven’t enrolled to vote.

But you don’t have to vote if you don’t want to.

Who can enrol and vote?

  • Anyone who is over the age of 18.
  • New Zealand citizens and permanent residents who have lived in New Zealand continuously for one year or longer at some point.
  • People who are Cook Island Māori, Australian, Niuean or Tokelauan can enrol to vote if they have lived in New Zealand continuously for a year. If you’re from any of those countries, you do not have to hold a New Zealand resident visa to vote.
  • You cannot vote if you are on a visa that requires you to leave New Zealand on a set date. That includes work, student or visitor visas.

Can I take a selfie while I'm voting?

You can't take photos in the booth with your voting paper but you can take a selfie outside the polling booth. You should be given a sticker saying you've voted. Take as many selfies as you like wearing that sticker.

The 2014 General Election 'Yes, I have voted' sticker. You could take a selfie with this.
The 2014 General Election 'Yes, I have voted' sticker. You could take a selfie with this. Photo credit: Getty

How do I vote from overseas?

If you're enrolled, voting from overseas is pretty simple.

You can vote from overseas if you are a New Zealand citizen who has been in New Zealand in the past three years, or if you are a permanent resident who has been in New Zealand in the past year.

The easiest way to vote is to download the papers from the site after September 6th, print them out and upload them to the website.

If you want to vote by post you'll need to download this form for returning to the Electoral Commission by post, ask for one to be sent to you (they are sent from New Zealand, so request papers early) or visit an overseas post.

Return your voting papers in these ways:

  • Scan or photograph and upload your voting papers.
  • Post or hand deliver voting papers to the nearest overseas post.
  • Fax your voting papers to the Electoral Commission (+64 4 494 2300).
  • Post your voting papers to the Electoral Commission: Overseas Voting, Electoral Commission, PO Box 3220, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.

Overseas voting starts on September 6.

If you live in Australia, there will be plenty of voting options - they open all their electoral commission offices for New Zealanders to vote.

A list of overseas voting locations will be available on the Electoral Commission website closer to the election.

New Zealanders voting from overseas will be enrolled in the electorate they last lived in for a month or longer.

What if I have to work on election day?

You are legally entitled to enough time off work to get to a polling booth if you don’t have a reasonable opportunity to vote before starting work.

As long as it takes less than two hours, your boss cannot take wages off you for the time taken to vote.

You are allowed to leave work before 3pm for the rest of the day in order to vote. People carrying out essential work after 3pm must be given time off for voting earlier in the day.

Voters with disabilities

The Electoral Commission has attempted to make voting more accessible for voters with disabilities.

  • People who are blind or have low vision, or another physical disability that prevents them from voting without assistance can vote by telephone. Registration for telephone dictation voting opens on Wednesday 23 August.  
  • DVD resource kit is available for voters with a learning disability.
  • An Easy Read guide to voting is available for people who have  learning disability, low literacy levels or who use English as a second language.
  • A support person can help fill in enrollment forms.

If you can’t get to a voting place, you can cast special vote in these ways:

  • Apply for postal, fax or email voting.
  • Ask someone to collect and deliver your voting papers.
  • Vote by telephone dictation for those unable to vote independently and in secret. Registrations for telephone dictation voting open on Wednesday 23 August. 

To cast a special vote, apply with your local Returning Officer or fill out this form and return it to your local Returning Officer. The Returning Officer must receive your application by 7pm on September 23.

Check the Electoral Commission website for more information on accessible voting options.

Can prisoners vote?

If you are in prison on election day, you can’t vote, regardless of how long you've been sentenced to.

If you are on remand, waiting for a trial or a sentence, you can vote.

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