Candidate handbook for the 2020 General Election

This section explains the rules for becoming an electorate candidate, a list candidate, or both. Find out who can be a candidate, the timing of nominations, how to be in a party secretary’s bulk nomination, and how to get an individual nomination.

You can be an electorate candidate, a list candidate or both

There are two types of candidate under the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system:

  • electorate candidates, who become members of Parliament (MPs) by winning electorate votes
  • list candidates, who are on registered party lists and can become MPs through the party vote.

You can contest an electorate and be on a party list at the same election. You can only contest one electorate and be on one party list for each election.

You must be a New Zealand citizen who is enrolled to vote

To be a candidate you must be both:

  • enrolled to vote
  • a New Zealand citizen.

Send evidence of your citizenship if you were born overseas

If you were born overseas, we need evidence that you’re a New Zealand citizen with your nomination. This evidence could be a certificate of citizenship or a copy of your New Zealand passport.

There are two main grounds that disqualify you from enrolling

You can’t enrol to vote if you’re either:

  • a New Zealand citizen who hasn’t been in New Zealand within the last 3 years
  • in prison serving a prison sentence of 3 years or more.

There are exceptions to these rules. For example, the 3 years rule doesn’t apply if you’re a public servant or member of the Defence Force who’s on duty outside New Zealand, or a member of their family.

Other grounds for disqualification only affect a few people

There are other grounds of disqualification that affect a very small number of people. You can find out more on the New Zealand legislation website.

There are special rules for some state servants who become candidates

You can become a candidate if you’re a state servant, board member of a Crown entity or director of a Crown company.

If you’re a state servant, you must take leave starting on 18 September and ending on 19 October, the first working day after election day. Taking leave helps avoid the possibility of real or supposed conflicts of interest.

Your employer may need you to take leave before 18 September if they think your responsibilities as a state servant make this necessary.

If you’re elected, you’ll have to resign from your state sector role.

Before you seek a nomination, talk to your employer and check the State Services Commissioner’s guidelines.

You can contest any electorate

You can contest any electorate, even if it’s not the one you’re enrolled in. You can contest either a Māori or a general electorate no matter your race or ethnicity.

You can use your legal or common name

You can choose any of the following names to appear on the ballot paper:

  • the name on your birth certificate
  • the name an adoption order gave you
  • a name you’ve adopted by deed poll
  • a name you’ve commonly been known by in the last 12 months.

For example, a candidate commonly known as Mike Young can use this name rather than their full legal name Michael Young.

You can’t use any titles or honorifics on the ballot paper.

There are two ways to become an electorate candidate

You can become an electorate candidate through a bulk nomination by your party secretary or by an individual nomination to the returning officer.

A registered party can use either method, but not both. Independent candidates and candidates standing for unregistered parties may not use the bulk nomination method.

Your registered party can make a bulk nomination

If you’re representing a registered party, your party secretary can include you in a bulk nomination schedule with all the electorate candidates the party wants to nominate. Your party secretary then sends the bulk nomination schedule to us.

This is the simplest way for a registered party to nominate candidates, and most registered parties use it.

The deadline for bulk nominations is 17 September

Your party secretary must get their bulk nominations to us by noon on 17 September.

You can’t make an individual nomination if your party is making a bulk nomination

If your party is making a bulk nomination, that’s the only way you can become an electorate candidate. We won’t accept individual nominations for candidates representing the party.

Give your details to your party secretary

Tell your party secretary:

  • the electorate you’ll contest
  • your full name
  • the name you want to appear on the ballot paper (up to 30 characters long)
  • the electorate you’re enrolled in.

Sign a consent form

Ask your party secretary for a form to sign that gives your consent to be an electorate candidate. Your party secretary will include your consent form with the bulk nomination.

If you’re on the party list and contesting an electorate, you can give your consent to both on one consent form.

Talk to your party secretary about the $300 deposit

Your party secretary must send us a deposit of $300 for every candidate on their schedule.

You can make an individual nomination

You can submit an individual nomination if you’re:

  • representing an unregistered political party
  • contesting as an independent
  • representing a registered party that is not making a bulk nomination.

You must be nominated by two people who are enrolled in the electorate you want to contest. You can’t nominate yourself.

Your nominators must complete their part of your individual nomination form and then you must make sure the form gets to the returning officer in the electorate.

Returning Officers can receive nominations from 10 August

Returning Officers can start receiving nominations from 10 August. We’ll call for nominations with newspaper advertisements and make more information available on our websites.

The deadline for individual nominations is 18 September – nomination day

The Returning Officer must get your individual nomination form by noon on 18 September – nomination day.

Get your nomination in as soon as possible

We recommend you get your nomination to the returning officer in person and as early as possible.

This gives the Returning Officer time to check your nomination to make sure they can accept it. The Returning Officer can’t extend the nomination deadline.

Tell us whether you’re representing a party

Tell us on the nomination form whether you’re representing a party or are an independent. If we are satisfied that your party’s name is not indecent, offensive, excessively long, misleading or confusing, it will appear under your name on the ballot paper.

If you’re representing an unregistered party, you will need to give the Returning Officer proof that:

  • the party exists, such as the party constitution
  • you can represent the party, such as a letter from the party secretary.

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

You must make a deposit of $300

You must include a deposit of $300 with your individual nomination. The deposit can be paid by direct credit, in cash, a bank draft or a bank cheque. Make the bank draft or bank cheque out to ‘Electoral Commission Trust Account’.

We don’t accept personal cheques.

If you pay with direct credit

Pay the direct credit into the following account, with your name as a reference:

Electoral Commission Trust Account
02 0506 0077208 00

Include evidence of the time and date you made the deposit with your nomination form. The evidence could be a copy of your receipt from the bank or a screenshot of your online transaction confirmation.

Make sure that you leave enough time for your bank to process your payment before the deadline. Don’t pay with direct credit on nomination day.

Talk to the Returning Officer if you might have trouble with your nomination

Talk to the Returning Officer if you think you’ll have trouble physically getting your nomination and the deposit to them.

Your party secretary can nominate you as a list candidate

If you’re a list candidate for a registered party, your party secretary will include your details in the party list and send the list to us.

The deadline for party lists is noon 17 September

Your party secretary must get the party list to us by noon on 17 September.

Give your details to your party secretary

Tell your party secretary your name, address and phone number to include on the party list.

Sign a consent form

Ask your party secretary for a form to sign that gives your consent to be a list candidate. If you’re on the party list and contesting an electorate, you can give your consent to both on one consent form.

You can withdraw your nomination

If you want to withdraw your nomination, you must do it before noon on Friday 18 September.

Contact your party secretary as soon as possible if you were nominated through a bulk nomination, or you’re a list candidate. You’ll need to complete the withdrawal form.

If you were nominated through an individual nomination you must do all the following.

  • Get a withdrawal form from your returning officer and complete it.
  • Sign the form in the presence of a Justice of the Peace or solicitor.
  • Return the signed form to the returning officer by noon on 18 September.

Someone should contact us urgently if a candidate dies or is incapacitated

Someone involved in your campaign should contact us urgently if you die or are seriously incapacitated either:

  • before nomination day
  • between nomination day and the day we declare the official result.

We’ll brief you about your responsibilities

Your Returning Officer will brief you about how the election will work, the nomination process, and your responsibilities as a candidate.

You can attend the briefing yourself or send a representative.

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

We’ll release some of your information to the public

Once we’ve processed all the nominations and party lists, we’ll publish the names of all candidates on our website

We don’t publish biographical information, policies, phone numbers or email addresses.

People who are enrolled to vote in the electorate can visit their Returning Officer and see the individual nomination forms for candidates in that electorate.

For candidates on the unpublished roll we will not make address information available for inspection.

Tell us if you don’t want us to give your contact details to the media

The media often ask us for candidates’ contact details such as a telephone number or email. If the media asks for your contact details, we’ll release them unless you or your party secretary has told us in advance not to release them.

Electorate candidates appear alphabetically on the ballot paper

The names of the electorate candidates appear alphabetically by surname on the right-hand side of the ballot paper. If you represent a party, your party’s name will appear under your name. If your party is a registered party with a registered logo, the logo will appear to the right of your name.

If your party is contesting the party vote, we’ll print the name of your party opposite your name on the left-hand side of the ballot paper.

If you’re an independent, we’ll leave the space opposite your name blank.We list parties that are only contesting the party vote alphabetically on the left-hand side of the ballot paper, after the parties that are also contesting the electorate vote.

You can appoint scrutineers

If you’re an electorate candidate, you can appoint scrutineers.

Scrutineers oversee the conduct of the election.You can appoint scrutineers to observe:

  • the issuing of votes in voting places, including advance voting places
  • the preliminary count after 7pm on election night
  • the early count of advance votes
  • the checking of special vote declarations
  • the scrutiny of the rolls and the official count
  • any judicial recounts of electorate votes.

If you intend to appoint scrutineers to attend voting places to observe voting you or your party secretary should let us know the number of scrutineers and the voting places they will be attending in advance as the presence of scrutineers at voting places needs to be managed within the physical distancing requirements to keep everyone safe. Party secretaries were advised of draft voting place locations in mid-June. We may need to limit the number of scrutineers at some voting places during voting hours for safety reasons and then have scrutineers present for the preliminary count.

There are no scrutineers appointed for the referendum counts. These will be overseen by Justices of the Peace during the official count.

We have a guide for appointing scrutineers

You can download our scrutineer handbook from this website. The handbook tells you how to appoint scrutineers, has the declaration of secrecy your scrutineers need to sign, and includes all the rules your scrutineers need to follow.

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