Election day may be September 20 but parties across the
political spectrum are gearing up for a fierce battle during
the two weeks before that over what is expected to be a record
advance voter turnout.
Up to and including the 2008 general election voters had to
make a statutory declaration that they were unavailable to
vote on election day before being allowed to cast an advance
vote. However, before the 2011 election, voters could cast
advance votes for virtually any reason at all. Even though
the rule change was not widely promoted, advance votes leapt
from just over 11 per cent in 2008 to almost 15 per cent in
The tally is expected to increase again this year with
parties and the union-led Get Out and Vote campaign planning
big promotional pushes to raise awareness of the option.
Laila Harre had a key role in developing the union-led Let's
Get Out and Vote campaign before she left to assume the
leadership of the Internet-Mana Party.
Internet-Mana will encourage those yet to get on the
electoral roll to not only register but also cast their vote
at the same time. That meant having volunteer and
communications systems working on voter turnout for 18 days
rather than just one day.
"In a sense, if you've got the organisation for it you're
multiplying your volunteer resources by 18 if you're
mobilised on every day rather than just one day."
That meant the election itself would effectively begin on
National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce agreed that
date now marked the beginning of the election and says his
party is also gearing up to fight it on that basis.
The expected increase in advance votes was "definitely a
factor in our decision making around campaigning and our
In recent elections National has polled anywhere between two
and four percentage points higher through advance votes than
it has on election day. Labour and the Greens have
consistently polled lower in advance votes than those cast on
Ms Harre puts National's record in capturing advance votes
down to the fact they have traditionally been cast in
institutions such as hospitals and rest homes, "so they would
tend to reflect more conservative voting patterns".
That theory appears to be supported by the fact NZ First also
does better proportionately from advance votes.
- By Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald