NZ Election 2020: Guide on everything you need to know

Here's what you need to know to make sure your voice is heard this October.
Here's what you need to know to make sure your voice is heard this October. Photo credit: Getty.

New Zealand has an election in October, 2020.

It's a chance for Kiwis to decide who leads our country for the next three years, including taking charge of our COVID-19 recovery.

So here's what you need to know to make sure your voice is heard this October.

What is an election?

A general election is an opportunity for New Zealanders to vote for the people they want to represent them in Parliament and assist in making decisions around laws and spending.

Those individuals wanting to represent their community often join 'parties', groups with similar ideas and beliefs. 

Before an election these people campaign for their peers' vote by trying to persuade them their ideas for the country or community are the best.

What electoral system does New Zealand use?

New Zealand uses a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system

Under MMP, every eligible voter has two votes - one for a party and another for a candidate in their electorate. 

An electorate is an area of New Zealand the voter is registered in, of which there are 72 in Aotearoa.

The electorate vote is for the candidate the voter wants to represent their area in Parliament. These candidates are typically from parties, but could be independent. The candidate with the most votes becomes its Member of Parliament (MP).

The party vote is for the group of politicians the voter supports. The percentage of the vote a party receives affects how many seats the party gets overall in our 120-seat Parliament. It's proportional representation. 

A party must receive more than 5 percent of the party vote or win an electorate to gain any seats in Parliament.

The seats a party is entitled to from the party vote are firstly filled by its successful electorate candidates. However, if its party vote means it is entitled to more seats, those are filled from the party's list of ranked candidates. 

If it wins more electorate seats than the party vote entitles it to, there may be an overhang, which means more than 120 seats in Parliament. 

For example, if a party wins 5 percent of the vote (about six seats), but seven electorates, there will be one extra seat in Parliament. 

How is a Government formed?

Once an election occurs and parties know how many seats they are allocated, the process of forming a Government - the group of people who have authority to oversee the country's affairs - begins.

Since New Zealand began using MMP in 1996, no party has received more than 50 percent of the vote or 61 seats - enough to govern alone. As a result, parties have to typically work together to form a Government.

This often happens in one of two ways:

A coalition is a grouping of parties that when working together have a majority of seats in Parliament.

A confidence and supply agreement is where one party agrees to support another on certain laws or policies within Parliament. The party helps the larger party or coalition gain the "confidence" of the House, meaning support of more than half of MPs, as well as providing it "supply", meaning to support its spending.

How often are elections held? 

Each term of Parliament runs for three years, so an election will occur normally every three years unless a 'snap election' is suddenly called.

When is the next election?

October 17, 2020.

Who can vote?

To enrol and vote in New Zealand's general election, you must be aged 18 or over, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and have lived in the country continuously for 12 months or more some time in your life.

You can enrol at the voting place.

How do I vote?

If you are enrolled by September 13, a voting pack will be sent out in the mail detailing how to vote, who the candidates and political parties are, when you can vote, and where to find nearby voting places. You'll also receive an "EasyVote" card to make voting easier.

On October 17, there will be various locations across the country allowing for voting between 9am and 7pm. The location of these will be published around after they are finalised.

You can take your EasyVote card to the voting place, but if you don't have it, you can still vote. You don't need identification. 

If you can't get to a location, there are several options, such as voting through a phone dictation service. More information can be found here. It's also possible to vote from overseas.

Once you get to a voting place, you can give your EasyVote card to an official issuing voting papers. They'll then find your name on the electoral roll and give you voting papers.

If you don't have an EasyVote card, the official will ask for your name and address, so finding your name on the roll may take a little longer.

When you have your voting paper, you take it to a screen and vote privately.

Can I vote early?

Yes. You vote between October 3 and October 17. However, opening hours for booths may be different to those on election day.

Have more questions? Email

When are the results released?

Results are released progressively on the night of the election as votes are counted. Media outlets, including Newshub, will publish these as they come to hand. The official results will be declared on November 6.

Who are the main party leaders?

As of this article's publication date, the leaders of currently registered parties are:

New Zealand Labour: Jacinda Ardern

The New Zealand National Party: Judith Collins

New Zealand First: Winston Peters

The Green Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand: Marama Davidson and James Shaw

ACT New Zealand: David Seymour


Advance New Zealand: Jami-Lee Ross and Billy Te Kahika

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party: Michael Appleby and Maki Herbert

Heartland New Zealand Party: Mark Ball

Mana Movement: Hone Harawira

Māori Party: Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and John Tamihere

New Conservative: Leighton Baker

New Zealand Tea Party: John Hong and Susanna Kruger

NZ Outdoors Party: Alan Simmons and Sue Grey

One Party: Stephanie Harawira and Edward Shanly

Sustainable New Zealand: Vernon Tava

The New Zealand Democratic Party for Social Credit: Chris Leitch

The Opportunities Party: Geoff Simmons

Vision New Zealand: Hannah Tamaki

How is Parliament currently made up?

At the 2017 election the results for the now-parliamentary parties were:

National Party: 44.4 percent and 56 seats

Labour Party: 36.9 percent and 46 seats

New Zealand First: 7.2 percent and 9 seats

Green Party: 6.3 percent and 8 seats

Act New Zealand: 0.5 percent and 1 seat

The configuration of Parliament has changed slightly, however, since the election. In October 2018, National's Jami-Lee Ross left the party and became an independent. Consequently, National now has 55 MPs while Ross is an independent MP.

The Government is made up of a coalition between the Labour Party and New Zealand First, with confidence and supply provided by the Green Party.

What is a referendum?

A referendum is a vote by citizens on a direct question. 

What referendums are New Zealanders voting on this year?

Kiwis will vote on two referendum questions at this year's election. The questions are:

  • Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?
  • Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?

Have more questions? Email