Electoral Commission reveals how election will safely take place during COVID-19 pandemic

Several extra safety measures have been put in place in an effort to stop the virus spreading.
Several extra safety measures have been put in place in an effort to stop the virus spreading. Photo credit: Getty Images

New details about how the election will safely take place during the COVID-19 pandemic have been released by The Electoral Commission.

The new guidelines, which were released Tuesday, are based on New Zealand still being at alert level 2 during the election on September 19. 

Due to the pandemic, several extra safety measures have been put in place in an effort to stop the virus spreading. 

Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said the new measures include queue management, physical distancing, hand sanitisers and protective gear. 

"Safety measures at voting places will be based on advice from the Ministry of Health," Wright said. 

Under the new guidelines, advance voting will start two days earlier than planned on Saturday, September 5 to spread it over a longer period and reduce congestion at voting stations. 

The number of advance voting stations will also be increased, especially on the weekend before election day. Where possible, larger venues will be used to give voters more space, Wright said. 

"Some people will not be able to go to a voting place, but they will still be able to vote."

Wright said vulnerable people, including those with medical conditions or the elderly, can choose to register for postal voting if they don't want to go out to vote. 

"Voting services can also be delivered to small clusters of voters who are in isolation during the voting period using takeaway voting," she added. 

Wright also urged people to enrol early and keep their details up to date so that they receive information about the election and referendums in the mail including an EasyVote card which makes voting faster.

The safety measures include: 

  • Queues will be managed to maintain physical distancing
  • Voters will be asked to use hand sanitiser when they enter and leave the voting place
  • Voters can bring their own pen to mark their voting papers but there’ll be pens available for those who don’t
  • Election staff issuing votes will wear protective gear.

Voting for people who need to stay at home

Older people or people with medical conditions can either vote at a voting station or via postal voting. Voting papers will be sent in the mail which can be returned by post or to a nearby voting place.

People who go into isolation during the voting period will be able to use takeaway voting, where voting papers are delivered and picked up. 

Rest homes and hospitals

If it is still not possible for people to visit rest homes or hospitals, voting papers will be delivered and picked up.

Voting in prisons

If the bill allowing prisoners to vote is passed, voting services will be provided either in person or by delivering and picking up voting papers.

Voting from overseas

The easiest way to vote from overseas is to download and print voting papers and return them by upload. The service is only available to people outside New Zealand who are correctly enrolled. 

Voters who are overseas may also be able to vote at an overseas voting place but that will depend on the availability of overseas posts and the situation with COVID-19 in that location. 

The Commission will provide information about overseas voting places in early August.  Overseas voters will also have the option of receiving and returning their voting papers by post.