20 Nov 2023

Port Waikato by-election advance votes point to bigger turnout than Hamilton West

2:04 pm on 20 November 2023
An orange voting sign.

Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Advance voting in the Port Waikato by-election is tracking well ahead of the 2022 Hamilton West contest.

Port Waikato voters cast more than 42,000 votes in 2023, an increase from the just under 41,000 in 2020 - despite the electorate race having been cancelled, which could have curbed turnout.

Hamilton West is a similarly sized electorate: There were nearly 39,000 votes cast there this year, down from the nearly 41,000 cast in 2020.

By-election turnout is typically lower than in the general election, however, with only about 15,000 votes cast in the Hamilton West contest in 2022 - but early voters appear to be turning out in greater numbers in Port Waikato.

As a percentage of the votes cast in this year's election, just 1.76 percent of Hamilton West - 686 people - voted on the first day of the by-election last year.

That compared to 1322 votes cast on the first day of Port Waikato's by-election: 3.09 percent of the general election total and already higher than the most advance votes cast on any day in Hamilton West.

The daily peak of 1287 in Hamilton West was on the first Saturday before the by-election date, still only bringing voting at that mid-way point to just under 13 percent of the 2023 election total.

Port Waikato's daily peak so far was also on the mid-point Saturday, with 1768 votes cast on the day - bringing the total so far to 7902, about 18.5 percent of the October election total.

The final tally of 15,104 votes cast in Hamilton West last December amounted to 38.8 percent of the electorate's 2023 vote total, with 5268 of those - about a third - cast on the by-election date.

However, it's worth noting the Tauranga by-election last July had more than 20,000 votes, nearly 50 percent of the 42,114 total votes cast there in this year's general election.

The Port Waikato by-election was triggered by the death of one of the candidates in the general election - ACT's Neil Christensen - which cancelled the electorate race and means the area is temporarily without an MP.

Pre-MMP rules governing the way such a situation is handled mean an extra seat will be added to the total, meaning 123 MPs in Parliament.

This will disrupt the proportionality in Parliament MMP typically aims for, but that's the case for all by-elections.

National's candidate for the seat, Andrew Bayly, won it with a margin of more than 4000 votes in 2020 - the year of Labour's "red wave" in electorate seats, and by nearly 20,000 votes in 2017.

He has already made it into Parliament on National's list so winning the seat would allow the party to bring in the next MP from its list, Nancy Lu.

National also won the party vote in Port Waikato this year with more than 21,000 votes, nearly half of all votes cast in the electorate. Labour was the runner up with less than 8000 votes, followed by ACT with more than 5000, then NZ First with 3146 votes.

With Labour and ACT not standing a candidate for the by-election, the pressure is on Bayly to hold the seat against a concerted campaign from NZ First's third-ranked MP Casey Costello.

A full list of voting places is available at Vote.nz.

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