NZ Election 2020: Advance voting expected to blast past Electoral Commission target

The Electoral Commission expects advance voting to surpass its target, but is still encouraging young voters to get enrolled. 

The latest figures show that as of Sunday, more than 1.15 million people had already cast their ballot, and with six days to go, 2020's count is closing in on the number who voted early in 2017 (1.24m). Saturday saw the largest daily advance vote, with its 253,616 beating the 253,473 who voted on the day before election day 2017. 

Alicia Wright, New Zealand's Chief Electoral Officer, told The AM Show it's been going like "gangbusters". 

"We have had a lot more polling places this election. It has been increasing in popularity. In 2017, we had nearly half of people vote in advance. We are seeing that increase this time as well and I suspect we will beat our advance voting numbers full stop by today or tomorrow."

The Auckland August COVID-19 outbreak caused the election to be pushed back a month and the Electoral Commission has been promoting the benefits of voting early and local, which Wright says Kiwis have clearly understood. 

"The reason why we wanted them to do that was so that they could reduce queues and get in and out of the voting place as quickly as possible, including on election day."

Wright said that about 91 percent of the eligible population, or 3.4 million, is enrolled.

"Our 18-29-year-olds have jumped up from 72 percent at this time in 2017 to 75 percent, so that's a big jump up and we are really pleased about that."

But that still means about one-in-four haven't.

"We want them to get out there and do this. They have five days left. They can enrol and vote at the same time. They can jump into any voting place and do that. We would really like them to do that."

So how many people could vote by Saturday?

"It depends on how many people continue to turn out and vote. We thought we would have a target of around 60 percent advance voting through that time period. I suspect we will easily beat that. What the full turnout will be, we will have to see on the day."

Political commentator Andy Asquith told Newshub that he suspects people are taking a "very different view" of the election after an "absolutely exceptional year" with COVID-19.

"People have realised that the government can actually do some really positive things and people realise it is important that they have their say in shaping the government and want to get out there and have their say as soon as possible," he said. 

"I would like to think that people have had a good long hard look at New Zealand's society and how they would like to shape it and the direction that they want to go in and that has been the driver for such an early surge in people turning out to vote."

But while the Electoral Commission is keeping track of how many people have had their say, the actual ballots won't be counted until Saturday, with results released from 7pm that night.