12 May 2020

New Zealand general election at level 2 or lower, PM Jacinda Ardern confirms

2:51 pm on 12 May 2020

Planning for this year's General Election is now full steam ahead with the Prime Minister confirming it will go ahead on 19 September if New Zealand is at alert level 2 or lower.

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Photo: New Zealand Electoral Commission

Today, the Electoral Commission announced that a range of measures will be put in place to help keep voters safe.

Advance voting would start on 5 September, two days earlier than planned, to spread out voting and reduce congestion.

Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said the safety measures would be based on advice from the Ministry of Health.

"They include queue management and physical distancing, as well as the use of hand sanitiser and protective gear."

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The number of advance voting places would be increased and where possible larger venues would be used to give voters more space.

Those at high risk from Covid-19 would also be able to register for postal voting.

At resthomes and hospitals, the Commission said it was working on the assumption staff would unlikely be able to visit and deliver services, but 'takeaway voting' could be arranged, where voting papers would be delivered and picked up.

Takeaway voting may also be used in prisons, or in person by the Electoral Commission's mobile voting teams.

This service would be available for prisoners on remand or to prisoners sentenced to less than three years, if the Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill is passed.

The Commission said planning for the election was based on meeting alert level 2 requirements.

Voting services could also be delivered to small clusters of up to 500 voters affected by local alert levels 3 or 4, to a maximum of 5,000 voters nationwide, using takeaway voting.

If an outbreak was to occur in large areas of the county during the voting period, there are emergency powers available to the Chief Electoral Officer to delay election day voting by up to seven days at a time.

"The safety of delivering an election at a nationwide alert levels 3 or 4 is a public health decision that would need to be taken by the government," the Electoral Commission said.

If the election date is changed, the Commission said it would work towards the new date.

Alicia Wright said it was important for people to enrol early and keep their details up to date so they could receive information about the election and referendums in the mail.

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