NZ Election 2020: Jacinda Ardern, James Shaw out voting early as ballot boxes open

More than 400 polling places opened on Saturday as advanced voting kicked off and among the first in line to cast an early vote was the Labour leader. 

The Electoral Commission is encouraging all Kiwis to do the same in order to minimise the queues on election day and the risk of spreading COVID-19.  

"Once I've decided, I don't see any point in putting it off," said one voter.

"I just wanted to get it done," said another.

"Get it out the way, yeah just get it done," added a third.

Unsurprisingly, a Prime Minister with a penchant for 'Go Hard and Go Early' had the same idea. Jacinda Ardern was among the first to step up to the ballot box.

And while some things never change, voting looks a little different in 2020.

Sites saw people distanced and hands doused in sanitiser. Despite just one new case of COVID-19 in isolation on Saturday, the election is being run as though the entire country is at alert level 2.  

"We've got everything spaced out, so in our view, it's safe to go and vote," says Graeme Astle from the Electoral Commission. 

More than 400 sites have been set up already to help minimise queues. 

"Whether it's COVID, or just going and voting, we've set it up in such a way that we're encouraging people to vote early." 

Advance voting is on the rise. In 2017, it made up 47 percent of the total vote. This year, it's on track to crack 60.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw was following the lead of his could-be coalition partner, adding his early vote to this year's statistics.

"People will be mindful of crowds given the COVID-19 pandemic and will want to take the chance to get out and vote while they can," Shaw said.

Everyone should have or will soon receive an EasyVote card that will make voting quicker. But don't stress if you haven't already got one, you can easily vote without it. 

Getting in this early isn't for everyone. Judith Collins was far too busy chasing votes in Hawke's Bay to be voting herself. 

"No messing around, don't get strategic, just do two ticks blue," the National leader said.

While 90 percent of Kiwis have already enrolled to vote, it's not too late for the rest.

There are 14 days left to sign up, for your say about the next three years.