3 Oct 2020

Hundreds of sites open for advance voting

9:57 pm on 3 October 2020

Greens co-leader James Shaw is predicting a rush of early voting around the country now that polling stations have opened.

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James Shaw is among the first politicians to vote in this year's general election. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Advance voting accounted for nearly half of all votes in 2017, and the Electoral Commission says that figure could go as high as 60 percent this time.

After casting his ballot in Wellington this morning, Shaw told reporters he suspects some people will vote early to avoid large crowds.

"I already knew who I was going to vote for," he quipped.

Also taking the opportunity to vote were Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford.

They cast their votes at the Mt Eden War Memorial in Auckland, with both saying of course it was two ticks for Labour.

Jacinda Ardern casting her vote in the 2020 general election at Mt Eden War Memorial Hall in Auckland.

Jacinda Ardern casting her vote. Photo: RNZ / Jo Moir

Shaw said people were getting increasingly used to the idea of voting in advance.

"My strong sense - as I travel around the country - is people have pretty much made up their minds," Shaw said.

"I think that we will see a big rush of advance voting simply because people just want to get it out of the way."

Shaw said people may choose to vote early to avoid the large crowds on election day given the pandemic.

"Some people will also be worried that there could conceivably be another outbreak and so it'd be good to go and get your vote cast in advance."

The latest TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll puts the Greens on 7 percent.

Shaw said that was encouraging given the track record of minor parties in government.

"That defies political history. We would be the first support party to make it through a whole term in government and retain the same level of support that we had at the beginning."

He acknowledged, however, there was a risk the party could slip below the 5 percent threshold, given the Greens tend to perform worse on voting day.

As such, Shaw issued a plea to voters who were considering supporting the minnow parties currently receiving about 1 percent.

"Yes, vote with your conscience, vote for the party that you want to vote for, but also make sure your vote counts," Shaw said.

Advance polling stations open from today

Voters are now able to head to the polls from today, as 450 advance voting places open for the election and referendums.

The national manager of voting services, Graeme Astle, says the commission is encouraging people to cast their votes early in order to minimise election-day queues and lessen the risk of Covid-19.

"I think people have cottoned on to the fact that you don't have to wait for Election Day and what we have tried to do is to make it as accessible and easy as possible for people to get out and vote and voting early, voting locally, minimising queuing are all of the sorts of key things that we're hoping for this time."

The chief electoral officer, Alicia Wright, says the election is being run as though the country were at alert level 2, so physical distancing and single-use pens will be mandatory at polling stations.

Hand sanitiser will also be available.

Meanwhile, 400,000 eligible voters have yet to enrol for the election in two weeks, but the Election Commission says there's still time.

Two thousand six hundred polling stations will be open on Election Day.

A stand at the Kaikohe markets encouraging people to sign-up to vote.

A stand at the Kaikohe markets encouraging people to sign-up to vote. (file pic) Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

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