Tova O'Brien: Why we're picking a September election date

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: Newshub can reveal the election date will be announced in just an hour and I'm picking the 19th of September for Decision 2020.

The decision is expected to be announced at the Prime Minister's post-cabinet press conference at 3pm.

It's been the most closely guarded secret of the year to the point where even the details of when and where the Prime Minister would announce it have been met with obfuscation and eye rolls from the Government every time we ask, which has been a lot.  

We've based our pick of a September 19 vote on school holidays, university exams, seasons, international summits, public holidays and, of course, All Blacks fixtures because there's a very real risk fewer people will get out and vote on a Saturday that they're gearing up to watch the game. Ahem. 

Here's the rationale and an illustration of Newshub politics' forensic investigation. 

Newshub's election date research.
Newshub's election date research. Photo credit: Newshub


Jacinda Ardern could go early like Helen Clark did in 2002 with a July election. The pros are a) the government may still be feeling the afterglow of a Budget bump and b) Ardern can extricate herself from old mate, Winston Peters, a bit earlier if need be. The cons are that it's the depth of winter and, even more of a consideration for Ardern, it looks cynical. The flipside of those aforementioned pros are the perception you're going early to get the Budget gains (read: election bribes) and it may look like the coalition relationships are strained and you want out.  

Also there's only one option in July - the 25th - because the All Blacks are playing every other Saturday. 

School holidays also dominate July. 


In August there are a few more options. The Pacific Islands Forum is the first week of August but it would be almost unheard of for a Prime Minister to up and leave the country so close to an election - no matter the date. 

The ABs are only playing on the 15th and 29th leaving the 1st, 8th or 22nd. The 22nd is most viable here because of the more distant proximity from July but you're still contending with winter and the fear far fewer voters will leave their hotties to trudge down to the local school. Yes, we are that delicate. 


The All Blacks take out the 5th (and hopefully also take out the Springboks). School holidays start on the 26th so that's not an option. The 12th - potentially - but because of the time difference September 11 commemorations will be observed in New Zealand. That's not necessarily a reason not to go to the polls but could be a consideration.

That leaves the 19th of September - our pick. Boy, does that sound like an election date. Last election was the 23rd of September, and in 2014 it was the 20th of September. Recent precedent is hard to ignore. 


The 17th of October is another possible goer but with university study breaks and exams from around mid-October it's risky, though not impossible. The 3rd and 10th won't fly because it's still school holidays. There are also a couple of public holidays in October: Labour Day and Hawke's Bay Anniversary so no to the 24th. The last time we had an October election was 1996. 

So, there you have it. I stand by calling it for the 19th of September. Unless I'm wrong.

Tova O'Brien is Newshub's political editor