New polling booth at Al Huda Mosque

It is hoped a new polling booth at Dunedin’s mosque will help refugees feel comfortable voting for the first time.

Advance voting starts today and runs until election day, October 17.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to vote at nearly 450 polling booths over the next two weeks.

One of those booths will, for the first time, be at the Al Huda Mosque.

It will be open from 11am to 4.30pm for the next two Fridays, so people can vote when they head along to Friday prayers.

Otago Muslim Association deputy chairman Steve Johnston said anyone could vote at the mosque.

"It’s pretty exciting," he said.

"It makes it easier for members of our community to feel involved in the process. Hopefully it will put them at ease a bit."

Otago Muslim Association president Dr Rizwan Mohammed (left) and deputy chairman Steve Johnston...
Otago Muslim Association president Dr Rizwan Mohammed (left) and deputy chairman Steve Johnston are thrilled Dunedin’s Al Huda Mosque will serve as an advance voting place. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON

Association president Dr Rizwan Mohammed said that was particularly important for former refugees, who might be voting for the first time.

"It’s good for them to know their voice will make a change, their voice will decide who the next government will be, and that’s important for them to know."

Chief electoral officer Alicia Wright said the popularity of advance voting had been rising steadily – accounting for 47% of all votes nationwide in 2017 – and could reach as much as 60% this time round.

“Voting places can be found as far north as Te Hapua School near Cape Reinga to the Stewart Island Community Centre in the far south."

She encouraged people to "vote early and vote local", as it could minimise election day queues and therefore the risk of Covid-19.

“We’ll still be running the election as though the country were at Alert Level 2, so there will be physical distancing, use of hand sanitiser, voluntary contact tracing, single-use pens to mark voting papers, and PPE on hand for staff in case it’s needed.”

About 400,000 eligible voters had yet to enrol, and they could do so — and vote — at any time up to and including election day.

Arrangements were in place for people in hospitals, rest-homes, remand centres, prisons, managed isolation or quarantine facilities and overseas to cast their vote.

Local trusted journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Star Media journalists and photographers continue to report local stories that matter everyday - yours.

For more than 152 years our journalists have provided Cantabrians with local news that can be trusted. It’s more important now than ever to keep Cantabrians connected.

As our advertising has fallen during the pandemic, support from you our reader is crucial.

You can help us continue to provide local news you can trust simply by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter