Becoming a candidate

This section explains the rules in the Electoral Act 1993 for electorate and list candidate nominations, including who is qualified to stand as a candidate, the timing of nominations and the different rules for individual and bulk nominations.

Key messages

  • The deadline for individual nominations is noon on nomination day.
  • The deadline for party list candidate and bulk nominations by registered party secretaries is noon on the day before nomination day.
  • A nomination cannot be withdrawn after noon on nomination day
  • We’ll update this information when the date of nomination day for the 2020 General Election is announced.

Types of candidate

There are two types of candidate under the MMP electoral system:

  • electorate (or constituency) candidates who stand for election in electorates, and
  • list candidates on party lists who may be elected through the party vote.

As a candidate you can stand for an electorate and be on a party list at the same election.

Candidate eligibility

To be a candidate you must:

  • be enrolled as a voter
  • be a New Zealand citizen, and
  • not be disqualified from enrolling.

The main grounds of disqualification for enrolment that could affect eligibility to be a candidate are:

  • being a New Zealand citizen outside New Zealand who has not been in New Zealand within the last three years
  • being in prison serving a prison sentence.

There are exceptions to these rules, for example, in relation to public servants or members of the Defence Force who are on duty outside New Zealand, as well as members of their families.

There are other grounds of disqualification that affect a very small number of people. [For more details see section 80 of the Electoral Act]

Bankruptcy is not a ground for disqualification.

If you were born overseas, you will be asked to provide evidence with your nomination that you are a New Zealand citizen (such as a certificate of citizenship or a copy of your New Zealand passport).

Where can candidates stand?

You may stand:

  • in a different electorate from the one that you are enrolled in
  • in an electorate and, at the same time, be on a party list, or
  • in either a Māori or a general electorate seat irrespective of your race or ethnicity.

You cannot stand for more than one electorate or be on more than one party list.

Nomination of state servants etc.

You can be nominated to be a candidate if you are a state servant, board member of a Crown entity or director of a Crown company.

There are special rules for some state servants who stand as candidates.

If you are a state servant, to avoid the possibility of real or perceived conflicts of interest, the Electoral Act requires you to take leave of absence from nomination day until the first working day after election day.

An employer may require a state servant to take leave before nomination day if they believe the candidate’s responsibilities as a state servant make this necessary. If elected, a state servant is deemed to have resigned from their state sector role.

We recommend you discuss your nomination with your employer and consult the guidelines issued by the State Services Commissioner (SSC) (refer

Nominating electorate candidates

There are two ways to nominate electorate candidates:

Bulk nominations

This is where the secretary of a registered party nominates all the candidates representing the party by lodging a bulk nomination schedule with the Electoral Commission in Wellington. This is the simplest method for a registered party and most registered parties use it.

Individual nominations

This is where two voters enrolled in the electorate nominate a candidate by lodging an individual nomination form with the Returning Officer for the electorate. Nominations will be called for by newspaper advertisement and information will also be on

A registered party can decide to use one method or the other but not both. An unregistered party may not use the bulk nomination method.

Bulk nominations

Party secretaries lodge bulk nomination schedules directly with the Commission in Wellington. The legal deadline for lodging a schedule is noon on the day before nomination day.

If a party decides to nominate its candidates by bulk nomination, Returning Officers will not accept individual nominations for candidates representing the party.

You will need to liaise with your party secretary about the following matters:

  • the details you want included on the nomination schedule. The schedule records the electorate you will be contesting, your full name, the name you want to appear on the ballot paper if different to your full name (up to 30 characters in total), and the electorate in which you are enrolled
  • your consent to be a candidate. The consent to nomination form is available from your party secretary who will include them with the bulk nomination, and
  • the deposit to be lodged with the schedule. The party secretary must lodge a deposit of $300 for every candidate listed on the schedule.

Individual nominations

This applies if you are:

  • an electorate candidate who is representing a registered party that is not making a bulk nomination
  • a candidate for an unregistered political party, or
  • standing as an independent.

Two electors, enrolled to vote in the electorate where you wish to stand, must nominate you. You cannot nominate yourself.

Your nomination must be:

  • on the individual nomination form (follow the checklist on the back of the form)
  • lodged with a deposit of $300 (money, bank draft or bank cheque). Personal cheques are not acceptable. The bank draft or bank cheque must be made out to “Electoral Commission Trust Account”, and
  • lodged with the Returning Officer by noon on nomination day.

Read the criteria for getting a refund for you nomination deposit

Returning Officers can start accepting nominations from the time the writ is issued. We recommend you submit your nomination in person as early as possible and do not leave it until nomination day. This will allow time for the Returning Officer to check your nomination to make sure it is in order. The Returning Officer cannot extend the legal deadline of noon on nomination day.

You should discuss any difficulties you might have in physically getting your nomination and the deposit to the Returning Officer to see what arrangements, if any, might be made.

You are required to indicate on the nomination form whether you are representing a party or are an independent. If you are representing an unregistered party, provide the Returning Officer, if required, with evidence (such as a party constitution) that the party you claim to represent exists and evidence of eligibility to represent that party (such as a letter from the party secretary).

If you are representing a registered party and the party has a logo registered with the Commission, the party logo will appear by your name on the ballot paper. Only registered parties can have a registered logo.

Nominating list candidates

Secretaries of registered parties must lodge party lists with the Commission no later than noon on the day before nomination day.

If you are a list candidate, you should liaise with your party secretary about the following matters:

  • your details to be recorded on the list, including your name, address and phone number, and
  • your consent to be a list candidate. The consent form is available from your party secretary.

A candidate contesting an electorate and the list can indicate consent to both on one consent form.

Withdrawing nominations

If you were nominated through the bulk nomination procedure or consented to be included in a party list through your party secretary, but wish to withdraw, you must do so before noon on nomination day. Consult your party secretary urgently. You will need to complete the withdrawal of nomination from bulk nomination schedule form.

If you were individually nominated directly to the local Returning Officer you must:

  • complete a withdrawal of individual nomination form (obtainable from the Returning Officer)
  • sign the form in the presence of a Justice of the Peace or solicitor, and
  • return the signed form to the Returning Officer no later than noon on nomination day.

A nomination cannot be withdrawn after noon on nomination day.

Death or incapacity of candidates

There are procedures in the Electoral Act that must be followed if a candidate dies or is incapacitated before nomination day, or between nomination day and the declaration of the official result.

If this happens to a candidate included in a party list or nominated in a bulk nomination schedule, the party secretary should urgently contact the Commission and fill in an application to cancel a candidate nomination on grounds of incapacity form (in the case of incapacity).

If the candidate is an individual nomination, the electors who nominated the candidate should urgently contact the Returning Officer and fill in the form to cancel the candidate’s nomination (in the case of incapacity).

Candidate name

A person can be nominated under the name on their birth certificate, the name conferred on them by means of an adoption order, a name they have adopted by deed poll, or a name which they have commonly been known by in the preceding 12 months. For example, a candidate commonly known as Mike Young can use this name rather than their full legal name Michael Young.

Titles and honorifics are not allowed.

Order of candidates on ballot paper

Electorate candidates are arranged alphabetically by surname on the right-hand side of the ballot paper with any registered logo to the right of the name (the electorate vote).

If your party is contesting the party vote, the name of your party will be printed opposite your name on the left-hand side of the ballot paper (the party vote).

If you are an independent, the space on the left-hand side of the ballot paper, opposite your name, is left blank.

Parties contesting the party vote but not the electorate vote are listed alphabetically on the left-hand side of the ballot paper, after the other parties that are standing candidates.

Release of candidate information

Individual nomination forms are available for public inspection by a registered elector of the district at the Returning Officer’s headquarters. When all nominations and all party lists have been processed after nomination day we will publish the names of candidates on We do not publish biographical information, policies, telephone numbers or email addresses.

It is common for the media to ask for the telephone or email contact details for candidates, in which case we will release them unless you or your party secretary tell us that you do not wish us to do so.

Candidate briefing sessions

Soon after the close of nominations your Returning Officer will brief you about the election process and your responsibilities as a candidate in an election. You may attend or send a representative. At these sessions, information packs containing a variety of materials will be available.

Contact the Returning Officer for information on the date and time of the candidate briefing.