Election 2023 New Zealand guide: Dates, parties, how to vote, what you need to know

New Zealand is holding a general election on October 14, 2023.

Kiwis will be able to vote for the political party and candidate they believe will best represent them and their community in Parliament. 

The decisions made by New Zealanders will influence which party (or parties) form a government for the next three years.

Here are some of the key things New Zealanders need to know prior to voting.

What is a general election?

A general election is held every three years in New Zealand, allowing New Zealanders to vote for the people they want to represent them in Parliament. 

Parliament is located in Wellington and is where the people who are successfully elected - called Members of Parliament (MPs) - meet to decide and debate New Zealand's laws. 

People standing for Parliament can stand independently or decide to join what is called a 'party'. These are groups of people standing for Parliament with similar views, ideologies and policies.

In the run-up to an election, candidates and parties try to persuade New Zealanders that their vision for the future is the best and that they deserve their votes. They will release policies, which are proposals for what they will do if elected.

There are generally a number of events associated with an election, like campaign launches and debates between political parties' candidates.

How does the election system work?

New Zealand uses an electoral system called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP).

Under this system, every eligible New Zealand voter has two votes. One is for a party - this is called a party vote - and the second is for a candidate in their electorate.

An electorate is an area of New Zealand with its own representative. There are 72 electorates in New Zealand, 65 of which are general electorates and seven of which are Māori electorates.

New Zealanders cast a party vote for the party which has the policies they believe best align with their vision for New Zealand. 

The proportion of the overall vote a party receives affects how many seats the party is entitled to in our 120-seat Parliament. If a party received 10 percent of the vote, it will receive around 12 seats.

The electorate vote is for the candidate the voter expects will best represent their area in Parliament. These candidates may be independent or be from a party. The candidate who receives the most votes receives a seat in Parliament. 

Under New Zealand's system, a party must receive 5 percent or more of the party vote to gain representation in Parliament or win an electorate.

What's needed to enter Parliament.
What's needed to enter Parliament.

So how does a party decide which of its candidates will fill the seats they are entitled to? They use what is called a party list. 

Prior to the election, a party releases a list of candidates. They are ranked, with the most senior candidates at the top and typically the most junior or new candidates at the bottom.

If a party is entitled to 20 seats in Parliament and wins 5 electorates, that means it will fill the remaining 15 by taking the top 15 list candidates who didn't win an electorate.

There is a chance of what is called an 'overhang'. This is where a party wins more electorate seats than what the party vote entitles them to. This leads to Parliament having more than 120 seats.

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 New Zealanders have voted and it becomes clear how many seats individual parties will have in Parliament, the process of forming a government can begin.

The Government is the group of people that has authority to oversee the country's affairs. The group - which can be made up of one or more parties - must be able to show the Governor-General it has the confidence of the majority of MPs to lead the country.

Since New Zealand started using the MMP electoral system in 1996, there has only been one occasion where a single political party received a majority of MPs in the House, meaning it could govern alone. This was in 2020 when Labour received 50 percent of the vote.

If no single party receives a majority, there are several other ways a government can be formed. Each of these generally requires negotiations between parties, which happens in the weeks after an election.

One is a coalition. This is a group of parties that between them have a majority of seats in Parliament and formally decide to work together to govern. 

Two parties can work together to form a government.
Two parties can work together to form a government.

A confidence and supply arrangement is where one party agrees to support another party or a group of parties on certain policies or legislation 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.

The leader of the political party in government that has the most seats typically becomes the Prime Minister. Other key people in the governing parties become ministers, who are responsible for leading certain areas of work, like education or health. 

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.

New Zealand has a convention whereby the incumbent Prime Minister will typically announce the date of a general election early in the year it will be held. This allows the country a large amount of time to plan for the election.

When is the next election?

October 14, 2023.

Election 2023 New Zealand guide: Dates, parties, how to vote, what you need to know

Who is allowed to vote?

To be eligible to vote, someone needs to be 18 years or older, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and have lived in New Zealand continuously for 12 months or more at some point in their life.

How do I vote?

The first thing an eligible person needs to do is make sure they are enrolled to vote. This can be done online or by emailing or posting forms to the Electoral Commission. It can also be done at a voting place on election day. More information can be found here.

If someone is enrolled by September 10, they will be sent an EasyVote pack. This will tell New Zealanders how they can vote, who the candidates are and when voting takes place. 

In the pack is a card that can be taken to polling booths to make the process easier. However, that isn't necessary to vote. People can also vote without bringing their ID.

A list of voting places will be available closer to the election. There will be signs and people in orange vests at the sites to help people.

A worker at the site will find the voter's name on the electoral roll and issue them with voting papers. The EasyVote card will help make this quicker. 

Once the voter has their papers, they will take them to a private booth to cast their two votes.

Can I vote early?

Yes. Advanced voting in New Zealand begins on October 2. Overseas voting starts on September 27.

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 3.

Which political parties are standing? 

Here are the currently registered political parties:

  • ACT
  • Animal Justice Party Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
  • DemocracyNZ
  • Democratic Alliance
  • Freedoms New Zealand
  • Leighton Baker Party
  • New Conservatives
  • New Nation Party
  • New Zealand First
  • New Zealand Labour Party
  • New Zealand Loyal
  • New Zeal
  • NZ Outdoors and Freedom Party
  • Te Pāti Māori
  • The Green Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand
  • The New Zealand National Party
  • The Opportunities Party
  • Vision New Zealand
  • Women's Rights Party