The only votes that count is the party vote – except in………

In New Zealand elections we have two votes – the party vote and the electorate vote.

For the vast majority of voters, the only vote that counts in terms of who forms the government is the party vote.

The only exception is where the electorate vote will make a difference to whether a party gets into parliament at all.
This applies to Te Tai Tokeraua (Mana Party), Epsom (Act Party), Waiariki and Te Tai Hauāuru (Maori Party) and possibly Nelson (Green Party) and Northland (NZ First) if either party got below 5% in the party vote.
If parties get less than 5% of the vote they get no MP’s – unless they win an electorate seat. If they get an electorate seat then they can bring in other MPs from the list if they get enough votes.
With 120 MPs each seat is worth about 0.8%. If the party can get at least 1.6% of the party vote they can bring in a second MP with just one electorate seat. This was the case with the Maori Party last election.
If you are like the Act Party and poll less than that, then you get just the one seat you already hold. However, that can be a cheap bonus seat to the National Party if the Act Party polls less than 0.8%. That is why voting for the National candidate in Epsom to defeat Act is a smarter tactical vote for progressives.
The Maori and Mana Parties are almost certain to fall below the 5% threshold in Party votes so will have no representation if they don’t win an electorate. That is why they did a deal not to run against each other this year.
For Mana, their only chance is with Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau. He is running the line that because the current seat holder Kelvin Davis is the deputy leader of the Labour Party and number two on Labour’s list, then he is certain to be elected to parliament anyway. This means Labour supporters who like Hone’s feisty style in standing up for Maori and the poor, can vote Labour with their Party vote and Hone in the electorate and still get Kelvin Davis as an MP from Labour’s list.
My good friend John Minto has been arguing strongly that left-wing people should party vote the Greens to pull Labour to the left. It is certainly true that, on paper, the Greens policy is more progressive in many areas. I was particularly pleased to see the plight of many solo parents and beneficiaries under the callous government policies being implemented by WINZ being highlighted by the then co-leader Metiria Turei during the election period.
I remain sceptical of the genuineness of that commitment, however, given the fact the party signed up to the same absurd “fiscal responsibility” rules as the Labour Party and therefore will be similarly constrained when trying to implement any policy.
What is true is that only a party vote Green or Labour can guarantee a change in government which must be the aim of any progressive person in the country – whatever the limitations of both parties.
It is looking likely that a Labour-led government will be formed. It is certain that Labour will seek the inclusion of both the Green Party and NZ First in the coalition. They very unlikely to invite the Maori Party to be part of the government. This is partly because defeating the Maori Party is necessary for Labour being able to dominate Maori politics and the key to that is winning the Maori electorates. Secondly, NZ First will not join a coalition government with the Maori Party in it. The Labour leaders want NZ First in the government so they can use them against the Greens and vice versa when they want to. It gives them more options to tack left or right as they deem fit.
Given the momentum shift in the last few weeks it seems inevitable there will be a change in government. All possible parties in this government have said they want major increases in the minimum wage. Over the last year, Unite has been signing agreements with major employers in the fast food and other industries that will see all wage rates increase by the minimum wage plus a margin above. We will be launching a campaign the day after the election to “Make the Minimum Wage a Living Wage”.
Whatever parties promise, we can only be sure of making the promises a reality if the governments are under pressure in the streets. That’s our job.


  1. Excellent article Mike,

    We are taking this approach as we go to the polling booth Friday ourselves too.

    Good luck for our Unions and workers party’s.

    We are smart enough to vote for the workers Party’s as they keep our country going not the ‘blue party’ that back only speculators.

  2. An interesting argument was put to me recently in regard to Northland.

    It occurred in a discussion about voting tactics aimed to cause National Party the most damage possible.

    I had held my nose and voted voted Peters in the recent by-election because it it deprived National of what it regarded as a safe seat.
    I intended to do so again in the general election, for the same reason.

    Except that I almost fell into a trap because in a general (cf by-election) electing Winston won’t necessarily deprive National of a seat, as seat numbers are determined by its party vote.

    But where it gets interesting is that it was put to me that given the seat is, unfortunately, winnable only by the National or NZF (Peters) candidates, you can do more damage to the National Party by electing their mediocre candidate than by electing Peters.

    The reasoning being that, assuming the almost certainty that National will pick list seats, the mediocre candidate will occupy a seat that would otherwise go to a strong National list candidate. Thus diluting the talent pool National can draw on in Parliament.

    I must say I’m still trying to get my head around this.

    • Wow, that is interesting. Don’t know whether I could have brought myself to do that. I voted Labour – party and Peters electorate as you were intending to do. My partner voted Labour/Labour (but Peters i the byelection). Unfortunately this time, I think the new National candidate will get the seat anyway. Time will tell – maybe that pesky pipeline might make a few people think.

      • My partner voted Labour/Labour (but Peters i the byelection).

        That’s the thing, you can knock a seat out of National’s total tally in a by-election via the electorate seat vote, but not so in a general election.

        Leaving you/us the choice; what benefits the left more, Peters in or Peters out?

  3. Thanks Mike good post.

    It is indeed our job to see that they are accountable, the real work starts after the election. I want a list of things that when Labour get in they must have held accountable for. We need this list on this website so that people can add to it. Earlier in the piece Little said there wuld be an enquiry into operation Burnham (Afghanistan) altho he seemed to be backtracking on that before Ardern took over.

    Then there is the inquiry into abuse in state owned and run homes; the Pike river disaster and no doubt many other issues that others can list. Mental health what a disaster, general health and the issues with overloaded, underfunded hospitals……. We need the government to stop pandering to Israel and to support the people of West Papua! We need real change in the status of workers unions as we used to know them.

    I don’t want a Labour dominated government saying now we are in (not in so many words) we can’t do this because…… new governments are renowend for this sort of thing.

    Martyn get the list up and running please.

    Here in christchurch we should be able to get rid of Nicky Wagner and get her replaced with the Labour candidate, I think this will happen and for the first time since the ’80s I am voting for a Labour candidate, my party vote will go to the Greens who are the closest to the left that we have.

    My granddaughter voted for the first time with her boyfriend, she totally understood how she should vote in chch central. Two of her friends did not and voted the wrong way round, we need civics in schools, and we need the MPs themselves to understand how it all works.

    We also need to change the system so that people who don’t register because they don’t want their address listed (because they are being chased by debt collectors) have a real opportunity to participate.

    • “It is indeed our job to see that they are accountable, the real work starts after the election.”

      Couldn’t agree more. As an anarchist, I don’t believe any combination of parliamentary parties can fix all our woes for us. But it’s clear to me that governments like the NatACTs actively suppress efforts by our communities to fix them ourselves, because of the threat they present to corporate investors and other elite interests. While other governments support these community-led efforts, or at least stand aside and let us get on with it (the Labour-Alliance government was like this, but became much more authoritarian when governing with UF and NZ).

      In other words, everything I say on this blog needs to be in the context of wanting to see the least authoritarian government elected, the one least likely to pass laws stripping away more civil liberties and community group funding, and otherwise suppressing dissent and independent community organising. Whether this is what we will get, even if there is a change of government, we’ll have to wait and see.

  4. Hone now needs to say “hey Kelvin how can you look after our people in our electorate when you are going to busy with minister portfolio”.
    Kelvin cannot do both jobs its near impossible and our people up North needs lots of help and deserve quality time not lip service. Also how can Kelvin look after our whanau in his electorate he should stop being selfish and let our other whanaunga Hone look after our people. Now in regards to the Dot Com incident yes Hone might have made a mistake but what about the big mistake Labour made over the foreshore and seabed when they prevented our people from taking this issue to the courts. The Maori party was born from his issue.

  5. This is all a good case for preferential voting, which gives people the freedom to rank their candidates and parties in order of favouritism without the worry of unwittingly helping their political opponents.
    I used to be a strong supporter of MMP, but after 7 such elections I have seen a lot of blatant gerrymandering by political parties (mostly, but not exclusively, by National and ACT) and the terrible coat-tailing provision so I have gone decidedly cool on it.
    I like the Australian lower house form of preferential voting.

    • Agree on that, Mike, although there is always the problem of ‘personality politics’. (How else to explain the election of the soulless: Turnbull, Abbott, Dutton and others?)

  6. The distinction between electorate vote and party vote is still important in marginal electorates where National and Labour are very close like port Hills /CHCH central .

    Voting for the Green electorate candidate(apart from Nelson )is a wasted vote because they have no show of winning and only reduces Labours chance of being returned . 3000 votes greens +1000 votes tops = 4000 votes off Labours total and could easily gift the seat back to National.Essentially they are all splitting the center left vote 3 ways which makes Nationals job alot easier .

    Unfortunately there seems to be considerable confusion on how to to vote tactically to the average voter in such electorates.

    Even when green mp’s put out letters saying ” please electorate vote for Labour and only give me your party vote ” many people will still give both the electorate vote and party vote .Dumb.

    In these super close electorates the very best solution is to form an agreement to take the Green candidate off the ballot , where the green electorate vote will migrate to the next best choice -Labour , and add to the Labour total rather than subtracting from it.

    It may feel good to go double tick green, but if you want to change the Govt , its smarter to electorate vote Labour and party vote green.

    • For some it is just too hard to vote for Labour, so of course some are going to give both ticks to the Greens. That is that, until Mallard and any other of those neo libs still in there are gone, some people will never ever trust Labour.

    • Thank you very much BL. You are the only one to see exactly how this works. I have been saying this for years. We lose elections because stupid people split the vote between Labour and Greens. I have sent in my overseas vote for the Port Hills electorate. I have no time for Ruth Dyson but apparently she does a reasonable job for the electorate. Party and Electorate vote must go to Labour to win that seat.

  7. A Labour-Green-Māori coalition to me is more appealing than a Labour-Green-NZ First coalition, and FAR more appealing than a Labour-NZ First coalition. For the left, anything other than the first combination I mentioned is ugly and weak, mainly because of the dumb backwards conservatism of NZ First. Minto is right, in this election the best vote for a progressive government is the Green Party.

  8. Need a clear obvious table laid out by electorate as to how to best use the electorate vote for a Lab/Green government.

    • You really only need to look at what your local candidate got in votes last time and decide from that how to vote.

      I wold vote for my green candidate in my electorate except we have the chance of getting rid of Nicky Wagner!

      Every part vote should go to the Greens.

      At 7 minutes into this audio it confirms the following.
      It has been reported by the Electoral commission in an incident complaint where apparently electoral commission staff have been taking home voting boxes full of early voting ballot papers home with them, and Electoral Commission said it was not a security problem as they had seals on them.

      We are concerned about this freely transported non secure voting papers are being handled in this way, as they may be subject to electoral tampering with the election results.

      Last year when we conducted a full review of the Election system at the Electoral Comission.

      They told us in an email that they never allow their staff to leave the voting centres with any ballot boxes because they always have monitors veiwing their activities to keep security.

      But it appears they lied to us back then and we have the email evidence to prove this.

      What should we do with this evidence?

  9. I just heard on Radio NZ news at 1pm that some are questioning how come some staff at the polliing stations are alllowed to take the boxes of votes home with them at night?????

    Did anyone else hear this as it seems doggy to me althouugh some lawyer for the commission said “it is o/k as the bioxes have seals on them!! — reallly?

    Who can you believe in this corrupt little NZ’s grubby crime with a constantly lying PM?

  10. My prediction is a National -NZ First government with the Maoris and Seymour.

    The next three years will be a doozy.

    At least the farmers will be happy.

  11. ” it seems inevitable there will be a change in government.”

    Even if they’re in plastic baggies in the freezer – DON’T COUNT THE CHICKENS YET.

    If the fuel line foul up in Auckland gives National a reflected halo of virtue and strength it may not be the home run we’re all hoping for. There are still two days for the emergence of a bacon-saving FUBAR in National’s favour. (shudder)

    Don’t nobody use the word ‘deplorable’ between now and then.

  12. I voted today, candidate vote Labour (safe seat) and party vote Greens, altogether the lesser evil for me.

    What worried me was the fact that I saw no young persons head to or from the polling booth, rather mostly elderly and some middle aged, looking somewhat conservative.

    I fear the Nats are getting their potential and regular voters out in droves, to vote, and that Labour and Greens face the same dilemma as in past elections, the young vote, many preferring progressive policies, not going to the booths in sufficient enough numbers.

    The Nats have scared their voters, and swing voters, with that misleading tax advert, portraying Labour as the party that will increase taxes across the board, and so the ones that have stuff to lose, that is property, business, high enough, taxable income, they will again go in droves to vote Nats and some ACT.

    Unless Labour and Greens manage to get enough young voters out in the coming two to three days, we are likely to see a fourth term Nat government, possibly supported by NZ First.

    Why do the politicians always fail to try and talk to and connect with those poor and on benefits, and others who tend not to vote, until just before an election? That means, the ones tending not to vote get the impression they are only ‘needed’, when the opposition wants their votes.

    So I pray, do not give us another screw up, get out voting, get people out voting, go door knocking and do whatever you all can, to get the younger non voters motivated, to enroll at the polling station and to VOTE!

    If people need a reminder, look at the Colmar Brunton Poll out on TVNZ 1 tonight, a shocker:

    And while the Leaders debate was about equal, in my view, Jacinda coming across very well, but English fighting back rather well also, all is open, that is if people bloody well go voting.

  13. This quote sums up this ‘election’ (just like every other ‘election’) succinctly:

    ‘The banksters don’t really care whether Labour or National win. Both parties represent a continuation of the status quo’

  14. It is good to see a positive article for the underdogs as we all know who the media favour in this country and we also know how too many NZers
    don’t have a voice and have been excluded. This is why there hasn’t never really been much of a push to get people out to enroll and vote when there should be. I noticed in last nights final debate bill is very good at acting in fact if he doesn’t win he could take up acting he is bloody good at pretending and he can look a person in the eye and lie outright. If we had an Oscar he would win this hands down.

  15. National voters are like the Democrats in USA, very set in their ways,they are brain washed into thinking have all the knowledge. A family member is determined that the country is doing well,even though told there is a huge deficit,record suicides, people living on the street,rentals are out of touch for most young people,her answers.
    Labour left a huge deficit(not true )
    Suicides are because people give up too easily.
    People living in cars with children,they should’nt have children if they cant afford to support them.Rentals are market driven and are result of house price rises,told the wages don’t rise at all , we have to compete with China who have cheap labour. She is 33 im retired and voting Green for the first time,so stereotypes don’t count anymore.
    Most people i mix with think Bill English is weak and temporary,and as he was put in position by John Key, we all know John Key would pick someone who would carry on with his policies,time for a change dont you think.

  16. Well said. But Natz play dirty and it’s not a shoo in for Labour. That’s what people though last election. Labour lost. Big Time.

    Be strategic and Vote. Help others to vote.

    Help under 35 yo’s to vote. Help beneficiaries to vote. Help women to vote.

    Also would love Greens to win Nelson. Who does not hate Nick Smith??? Labour supporters vote electoral vote Green in Nelson!

    Give Labour your electoral vote in the other electorates apart from Toi Tokerau, Epsom and Northland. Don’t waste it!

    We had the Maori party ‘at the table’ supporting National for 9 years – look where it got us. A vote for Maori is a vote for National.

    The election might come down to a knife edge.

    Stategic voting everyone!

    • What if Bill English as PM was incapcitated for some reason ? has anyone thought how they would like Paula Bennet as deputy PM in charge of NZ?
      it would be a nightmare,its to be hoped National party voters have thought of this.

  17. Party vs. Electorate vote…
    Yr electorate vote is pretty damn important… 2011 Christchurch Central, we (Labour) lost this seat to National by 47 votes… and so lost a strong advocate for Chch post-quake.
    Brendan Burns didn’t make it back into Parliament… I think he was not on the list (sorry too pushed for time to check that fact…)
    So yeah…Party Vote, but sometimes that electorate vote is the difference between 3yrs more help, or 3yrs of heartache!
    Cheer’s for so much great info…
    Brendon Ross
    the beat mod’n’rocker

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