A brief history of voting quirks from ghost votes to political animals

9:34 am on 14 September 2017

MMP might still baffle some people, but the actual act of voting is incredibly straightforward in New Zealand.

Unlike many countries, such as the United States, there are very few barriers to enrolment and fewer hurdles still to actually showing up at a polling booth and casting a vote.

For those who need every single base covered, though, RNZ has rounded up the most obscure information the internet and the Electoral Commission can supply.

sign saying 'voting wahi poti'

Photo: 123rf

We can't count your ghost vote, bro

What if you cast an advance vote and then die before Election Day? Do you get to influence the political direction of New Zealand from beyond the grave? Unfortunately not, the Electoral Commission has confirmed to RNZ.

All registered deaths are sent on to the Commission so they can keep electoral rolls up to date - and if you vote in advance and then pop your clogs, your ballot gets nixed. It's not likely to be a widespread occurrence but it could happen: about 1200 New Zealanders (most of them voting-age) will die in the fortnight that advance voting takes place, and assuming even some of them cast advance votes, potentially hundreds of ballots could be deemed invalid.

Political animals

If you're living overseas, you'll need to fill out and post (or email or fax) your vote back yourself - an extra level of ballot-handling that could be intimidating to the clumsy or accident-prone.

Fortunately, the Electoral Commission has already provided clarification on what happens if your pet decides to get involved in the democratic process:

You can take guide dogs - and your children - into the polling booth.

Bog-standard pet dogs (and other animals) will have to wait outside, but make sure you take a photo and send it to webnews@radionz.co.nz or tweet @radionz for a concept RNZ plans to shamelessly copy from the UK general election.

Got democracy?

This election, seven Auckland supermarkets are hosting advance polling booths - so add "voting" to the shopping list. Unlike everything else at the supermarket, it's free.

The following supermarkets have polling booths:

  • New World Mt Roskill
  • New World Victoria Park
  • Pak'n Save Mangere
  • Pak'n Save Ormiston
  • Pak'n Save Silverdale
  • Pak'n Save Westgate
  • Pak'n Save Lincoln Rd

Putting the 'art' in 'party vote'

How decorative is too decorative? You can get away with quite a lot without your vote being discarded as an informal vote or a spoiled ballot:

Basically, as long as your voting intention is clear, and anything else you might mark on your ballot doesn't obscure your vote, you're pretty much good to go.

Voting without a fixed address

On a much more serious note, homelessness has increasingly become a political issue, so it'd be good if the people most affected - i.e. those with no home - were able to have a say, right? In New Zealand, you can vote even if you are currently homeless - you can enrol at an address where you spend a substantial amount of time, such as a night shelter, city mission, or another community facility.

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly told RNZ recently that the mission had several hundred people enrolled at its central Auckland address.

Citizen's Advice Bureau has more information about this.

You can enrol up to the day before the election on 23 September. Check out elections.org.nz.

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