Hundreds of sites set to open for advance voting

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Greens co-leader James Shaw is predicting a rush of early voting around the country now that polling stations have opened.

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James Shaw is among the first politicians to vote in this year’s general election. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Advance voting accounted for nearly half of all votes in 2017, and the Electoral Commission says that figure could go as high as 60 percent this time.

After casting his ballot in Wellington this morning, Shaw told reporters he suspects some people will vote early to avoid large crowds.

He says they may also be concerned about the potential for another outbreak.

Shaw says people should vote with their conscience, but should also ensure their vote counts.

Voters are now able to head to the polls from today, as 450 advance voting places open for the election and referendums.

The national manager of voting services, Graeme Astle, says the commission is encouraging people to cast their votes early in order to minimise election-day queues and lessen the risk of Covid-19.

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“I think people have cottoned on to the fact that you don’t have to wait for Election Day and what we have tried to do is to make it as accessible and easy as possible for people to get out and vote and voting early, voting locally, mininising queuing are all of the sorts of key things that we’re hoping for this time.”

The chief electoral officer, Alicia Wright, says the election is being run as though the country were at alert level 2, so physical distancing and single-use pens will be mandatory at polling stations.

Hand sanitiser will also be available.

Meanwhile, 400,000 eligible voters have yet to enrol for the election in two weeks, but the Election Commission says there’s still time.

Two thousand six hundred polling stations will be open on Election Day.

A stand at the Kaikohe markets encouraging people to sign-up to vote.

A stand at the Kaikohe markets encouraging people to sign-up to vote. (file pic) Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

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