A range of measures will be put in place to help make it safe for voters and election workers to take part in the 2020 General Election and referendums.
The Electoral Commission is continuing to work towards delivering the election and two referendums on 19 September, which is the date set by the Prime Minister in January. Changes are being made to the way the election will be run to meet the public health requirements for COVID-19.
“Safety measures at voting places will be based on advice from the Ministry of Health,” says Alicia Wright, Chief Electoral Officer. “They include queue management and physical distancing, as well as the use of hand sanitiser and protective gear.”
Advance voting will start two days earlier than planned on Saturday 5 September to spread voting over a longer period and reduce congestion in voting places. The number of advance voting places will be increased, especially on the weekend before election day. Where possible, larger venues will be used to give voters more space.
“Some people will not be able to go to a voting place, but they will still be able to vote,” says Alicia Wright.
Voters who are older or have a medical condition that places them at high risk from COVID-19 can choose to vote at a voting place or register for postal voting and have their voting papers sent to them in the mail.
“Voting services can also be delivered to small clusters of voters who are in isolation during the voting period using takeaway voting, which is when voting papers are delivered and picked up,” says Alicia Wright.
Alicia Wright says it is important for people to enrol early and keep their details up to date so that they receive information about the election and referendums in the mail including an EasyVote card which makes voting faster.
For more information on COVID-19 and the election, go to vote.nz/covid19.
Safety for voters and election workers
There will be measures in place at voting places to help keep voters and election workers safe.
- Queues will be managed to maintain physical distancing
- Voters will be asked to use hand sanitiser when they enter and leave the voting place
- Voters can bring their own pen to mark their voting papers but there’ll be pens available for those who don’t
- Election staff issuing votes will wear protective gear.
Voting for people who need to stay at home
In-person voting may not be suitable for voters who are older or have a medical condition that places them at high risk from COVID-19. Instead, they will be able to choose to vote at a voting place or register for postal voting. Voting papers will be sent to them in the mail which they will be able to return by post or to a nearby voting place.
People who go into isolation during the voting period will be able to use takeaway voting, where voting papers are delivered and picked up.
Rest homes and hospitals
We are working on the assumption that it is unlikely we will be able to visit rest homes or hospitals to provide voting services. Instead, we will work with hospital and rest home managers to arrange delivery and pick-up of voting papers (takeaway voting).
Voting in prisons
We will work with the Department of Corrections to provide voting services either in person by our mobile teams, or by delivering and picking up voting papers (takeaway voting). Voting services will be provided to prisoners on remand and, if the Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill is passed, prisoners sentenced to less than 3 years.
Voting from overseas
The easiest way to vote from overseas is to download and print voting papers and return them by upload. The service is only available to people outside New Zealand who are correctly enrolled.
Voters who are overseas may also be able to vote at an overseas voting place but that will depend on the availability of overseas posts and the situation with COVID-19 in that location. The Commission will provide information about overseas voting places in early August. Overseas voters will also have the option of receiving and returning their voting papers by post.
The election date
The election and referendums will be held on 19 September which is the date announced by the Prime Minister in January. If the timing of the election is changed by the Prime Minister or by Parliament, we will work to the new date that is set.
COVID-19 Alert Levels
Planning for the election is based on meeting the requirements of a nationwide Alert Level 2 for COVID-19.
Voting services can be delivered to small clusters of up to 500 voters affected by local Alert Levels 3 or 4, to a maximum of 5,000 voters nationwide, using takeaway voting.
If an outbreak occurs in a large area of the country during the voting period, there are emergency powers available to the Chief Electoral Officer to delay election day voting by up to seven days at a time.
The safety of delivering an election at a nationwide Alert Levels 3 or 4 is a public health decision that would need to be taken by the Government.