Early birds hit the polling stations for the start of voting

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Voters are starting to line up to have their say at polling stations throughout the country, with a steady stream turning out today in Wellington.

Tanya and her daughter Te Aroha at the Riddiford St polling station in Wellington, on the first day of voting.

Tanya and her daughter Te Aroha at the Riddiford St polling station in Wellington, on the first day of voting. Photo: RNZ / Hamish Cardwell

A Wellington election official says the polling station in the suburb of Newtown has been much busier than expected.

Newtown was humming today with people off to the vege market. Many were taking the opportunity to drop in to the pop-up polling station beside the supermarket on Riddiford Street.

Local resident Tanya said she was surprised how many people were getting their vote done today.

She said her young daughter’s enthusiasm for the election meant they got in there early.

“My daughter’s pretty excited.

“[She’s] been talking all about it, she’s been seeing all the billboards around, so she’s pretty excited to to go and vote.”

Voters queueing on the first day of voting, at a Riddiford Street polling station in Wellington.

Voters queuing on the first day of voting, at a Riddiford Street polling station in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Hamish Cardwell

Harley Bird said he and his flatmate decided to make a morning of it and go vote together.

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“Go get a coffee … democracy’s important – so why not.”

Harley Bird says its important to vote, and cast his on the first day of polling.

Harley Bird says its important to vote, and cast his on the first day of polling. Photo: RNZ / Hamish Cardwell

Polls opened at 9am and Rongotai electorate returning officer Deb Leslie said by 11am hundreds of people had been through Newtown’s pop-up polling station.

“It’s been much busier than we expected, which is fantastic.

“It means people are actually hearing about advanced voting – there’s been a lot of people who didn’t realise that they could start voting from now, and have just [come in when they] wandered past.”

In a bid to ease queues to aid social distancing, advanced voting began a couple of days early this election.

Voting is being managed as if under alert level 2 conditions.

Leslie said people could sign in manually or use the Covid QR code, then they have to sanitise their hands on the way into the station.

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Everyone gets their own free pen to make their ticks.

“We’ve got masks and gloves… for any people that want to wear them. We’ve also got the metre distancing laid out on the floor, so everyone knows where they need to stand, the desks are all separated so it is very very safe.

“We’ve taken all the precautions we possibly can.”

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