New Zealand has an electoral system that voters can trust. There are many checks and balances to make sure parliamentary elections are fair and the results are accurate.
There are many eyes on the election
Many people are involved in elections to observe voting, the counting of votes and the recording of results. They include Electoral Commission staff employed from the local community, scrutineers, and Justices of the Peace.
Scrutineers are appointed by candidates and parties
Candidates and parties can appoint scrutineers to observe every aspect of the voting process and the count. Scrutineers can:
- watch the issue of votes in voting places
- observe that ballot boxes are secured at voting places
- watch as the ballot boxes are opened and votes are counted and reported
- be present for the official count, the checking of special declaration votes and for any recount.
You can find out more about scrutineers in our Scrutineers Handbook.
Scrutineers Handbook [PDF, 163 KB]
Justices of the Peace observe the counting of votes
Independent Justices of the Peace are present during the official count which takes place after election day.
During the official count, certificates of results are signed by both the Returning Officer and a Justice of the Peace to declare that results are complete and final.
Votes are counted twice
Ordinary votes cast in advance and on election day are counted and released on election night. These are the preliminary results.
All ordinary votes are counted a second time and special votes are checked and counted during the official count. The official results are released 20 days after election day.
Votes are counted by hand. We do not use machines to count votes at the general election.
Votes are counted at voting places and electorate headquarters
Ordinary votes cast on election day are counted at the voting place where they are cast.
Ordinary votes cast during advance voting are counted at electorate headquarters.
After they’ve been counted, the votes are sealed in an envelope and placed in a ballot box which is closed with a new tamper proof seal. Ballot boxes from voting places are transported to headquarters by electoral officials.
The official count, including the count of special votes, takes place at electorate headquarters.
We publish the results
When counting is complete the results are recorded manually and then entered into our Election Management System. The system adds up the totals to produce the overall results which are published online.
The Election Management System was developed in New Zealand and regularly undergoes independent security testing and certification.
We publish the preliminary and official results from each voting place for transparency, and so people can add up the totals themselves if they wish to.
The results can be challenged
A safeguard in the electoral system is the provision for candidates and party secretaries to request an electorate recount or a national recount of the party vote.
Recounts are overseen by a Judge appointed by the District Court of New Zealand.
There is also provision for an election petition.
It is a secret ballot
There are many steps in the law to provide for a secret ballot, so no one will know how you voted.
Secrecy provisions also mean that requests cannot be made to see a person’s voting papers.
Voting papers are destroyed after six months
After the official count, all used ballot papers are sent to the Clerk of the House of Representatives and stored in sealed packs in a secure facility.
They are kept locked away for six months in case they’re needed for a legal challenge.
At the end of the six months, they’re destroyed under supervision from representatives of the Electoral Commission and the Office of the Clerk.