New Zealand PM casts advance vote in general election

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cast her vote in Auckland on Saturday for the 2020 General Election.
New Zealand PM casts advance vote in general election

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern waves as she cast her vote in Auckland on October 3, 2020. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cast her vote in Auckland on Saturday for the 2020 General Election.

On Saturday morning, Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern cast her vote with fiancé Clarke Gayford in Auckland. Ardern later confirmed to the public that she voted for the Labour Party.

New Zealand Green Party co-leader James Shaw cast his vote on Saturday morning in Wellington.

Voting places across New Zealand opened their doors from Saturday for voters to cast their advance votes for the 2020 General Election and referendums.

In the New Zealand 2020 General Election and referendums, besides voting for the 53rd New Zealand Parliament, voters can also vote in two referendums, including the End of Life Choice referendum and the Cannabis Legalisation and Control referendum.

According to the New Zealand Electoral Commission, nearly 450 advance voting places across the country are now open, with more voting places in the fortnight leading up to election day on October 17. On October 10, about 1,350 voting places will be open. On election day, there will be 2,600 voting places cross New Zealand.

Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright from the New Zealand Electoral Commission said that the popularity of advance voting has been rising steadily, which accounted for 47 percent of all votes in 2017, and was expected to reach as much as 60 percent in this year's election.

"Our message is to vote early and vote local because it's more convenient and minimises election day queues, which lessens the risk of COVID-19," said Wright.

"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 sanitizer, voluntary contact tracing, single-use pens to mark voting papers, and personal protective equipment on hand for staff in case it's needed," said Wright.

Arrangements are in place for people in hospitals, rest homes, remand centres, prisons, managed isolation or quarantine facilities and overseas to cast their vote. Postal voting and takeaway voting are available to those unable to get to a voting place, according to the Electoral Commission.

New Zealand uses the Mixed Member Proportional voting system to elect its Parliament. Under this system, the government is usually formed by two or more parliamentary political parties.

For the 53rd New Zealand Parliament to be elected in this election there will be 120 members of parliament plus any overhang seats, including 72 representatives for 72 geographical electorates and the rest seats from political party lists.

Each voter gets two votes. The first vote is for the political party, and the second vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the local electorate they live in. Under current MMP rules in New Zealand, a political party that wins at least one electorate seat, or five percent of the party vote, gets a share of the seats in Parliament. This share is about the same as its share of the party vote.

New Zealand's largest city Auckland is now at COVID-19 Alert Level 2 and the rest of the country at Alert Level 1. Public gatherings are limited to 100 people at COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

New Zealand citizens or permanent residents of 18 years or older, who have lived in New Zealand continuously for 12 months or more at some time in their life, are eligible to vote in the election.

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