Election 2023: Christopher Luxon, James Shaw cast early votes as National claims it's targeted over gang crackdown pledge

There are still 12 sleeps until election day but the votes are already rolling in. 

Polling booths opened across the country on Monday and thousands of advance votes were cast, including Christopher Luxon's. 

He arrived at the polling booth with his wife Amanda. The pair marked the beginning of early voting by voting early. 

"Let's just say I'm certainly not on the fence," said Amanda. 

But their fence and their home aren't in the Botany electorate Luxon represents, meaning they had to cast special votes for someone else.

"Two ticks blue. It was for a very good candidate called Paul Goldsmith," said Luxon. 

In Wellington, the Greens were voting early too.

Co-leader James Shaw and his Wellington Central candidate Tamatha Paul celebrated, even though there are still 12 days to go.

"It is possible that some peoples' minds to change in the next two weeks but I'm not one of those people," said Shaw. 

Labour's Grant Robertson said early voting is now part of the electoral cycle. 

"There's been plenty of opportunities over the last few weeks for people to have heard from us," said Robertson.

Luxon said: "It's a system we have had since 2011 and New Zealanders have embraced it."

National's certainly embracing it, taking out ads on the home pages of both Stuff and the New Zealand Herald websites.

Lime Scooters are also running a promotion called It's Lime To Vote - offering 50 percent off if you scoot to the polling booth. 

More than two-thirds of votes at the last election were cast early and plenty in Botany were on that bandwagon today.

"Just thought I'd get it out of the way. I knew who I was going to vote for from the start so just got it done," said one person.

"I'm going away overseas tomorrow so needed to get it in," said another.

"I thought I'd get in early because there's going to be a big number of people out voting this time," added a third.

This time is also seeing a big increase in abuse towards candidates.

National is claiming it's being targeted over its pledge to crack down on gangs.

It says one of its candidates moved house after a threat from a gang, another was filmed by a Head Hunters member at a restaurant, and another had beer poured over them. 

Its volunteers have received death threats, been abused and followed, and one had a dog set on them, the party said. 

"Life will be tougher under a National Government, our people shouldn't be intimidated because of the gangs getting involved in the political process and threatening our people the way they have been," said Luxon. 

Robertson said none of that's acceptable. 

"Everybody in a democracy should be able to campaign."

A fair, free democracy that's opened its doors today for those who want to get in early.