What parties can do once the results are out

This section explains when and how votes are counted and results released, as well as the processes for a recount or election petition. We’ll update this information when key dates for the 2020 General Election are announced.


Preliminary results – election night

After the voting places close at 7pm on election day and all voters have left, the manager of every voting place will carry out the preliminary count of votes in the presence of scrutineers and voting place officials.

The ballot boxes are opened and the party votes and electorate votes are counted. The result is phoned in to the Returning Officer and it is then input into the Electoral Commission’s National Election Results System. Results are displayed in real time on www.electionresults.govt.nz and at the same time are fed to television and radio media. Our target is to have 50% of voting place results available by 10pm on election night and 100% of voting place results available by 11.30pm.

Special votes cast in voting places are not opened and must wait for the official count.

Advance votes

Advance voting for the general election will start 12 days before election day. Advance votes (other than advance special votes) may be counted from 9am onwards on election day at the Returning Officer’s headquarters if the Returning Officer can provide appropriate security. The start time may vary between electorates. The Returning officer will notify the candidates of the start time for the electorate.

The counts will be undertaken in separate secure areas. Officials and scrutineers in the secure area for the advance early count of votes must stay there until 7pm.

Our target is to have advance vote results available by 8.30pm.

Official results

The official results are compiled in the Returning Officer’s headquarters by following a meticulous process which starts the day after election day. Electoral rolls are scanned and scrutinised to compile a list of all people who have voted (the master roll) and identify voters who have voted more than once. All votes counted on election night are recounted and checked to ensure accuracy.

The Returning Officer checks the validity of all special vote declaration forms and the names of special voters against the electoral rolls and the list of late enrolments for the district. If the special voter is eligible to make a special vote and the voter’s name is found on the roll the vote will be counted. The party votes of enrolled voters who voted on the wrong voting papers are also included in the count.

If a name cannot be found, the declaration form is forwarded to the Registrar of Electors to check the voting qualification of the special voter. If the Registrar can confirm that the voter is enrolled in the electorate, the vote will be counted.

The official results process starts on the Sunday after election day but cannot be completed until after the last legal day for receiving special votes from other electorates and Returning Officers overseas, which is 10 days after election day.

We expect to publish the official results for the general election 14 days after election day by notice in the Gazette.

The results will also be available at www.electionresults.govt.nz.

Election of candidates

After the official results have been published (and any electorate recounts have been declared) the writ is returned to the Clerk of the House with the names of the successful electorate candidates endorsed on the back of the writ. The writ is the written notice from the Governor-General instructing the Commission to arrange for the conduct of a parliamentary election.

The Commission then determines which list candidates are elected using a statutory formula. The Commission publishes a notice in the Gazette to declare the election of list candidates. We expect to make this declaration four working days after publishing the official results, subject to anyrecount applications.

Return of deposits

If a party wins 0.5% of the total party vote or an electorate seat, the Commission will refund the $1,000 deposit paid by the party secretary when lodging the party list. No refund can be made, however, until the party has filed its audited return of election expenses to the Commission.

If a candidate listed on the bulk nomination schedule wins 5% of the total electorate votes in the electorate concerned the $300 deposit paid is refundable. No refund can be made until all candidates on the schedule have furnished their returns of election expenses and donations to the Commission.

Judicial recounts

Recount of party votes

After the declaration by the Commission of the official results, the party secretary may apply to a District Court Judge for a recount of party votes in a particular electorate.

The application must be:

  • made within three working days of the official result for the electorate being declared, and
  • accompanied by a deposit of $1,500 (GST inclusive).

The party secretary may apply to the Chief District Court Judge for a recount of party votes in every electorate.

The application must be:

  • made within three working days of the official results in all electoral districts being declared,  and
  • accompanied by a deposit of $90,000 (GST inclusive).

Electorate candidates can apply to a District Court Judge for a recount of the electorate votes.

The application must be:

  • made within three working days of the declaration of the result, and
  • accompanied by a deposit of $1,000 (inclusive of GST).

The Judge must start both electorate vote and any party vote recounts within three working days of receiving the application and inform the political parties when and where it will take place.

If the party or one of its candidates wishes to seek a recount, the Commission will provide information on the process to be followed.

Election petitions

The only way to challenge the allocation of party list seats or the election of an electorate candidate is by election petition.

To seek a review of the procedures and methods used to allocate list seats, the party must present an election petition to the Court of Appeal. The party must do this within 28 days of the Commission declaring the election of list candidates.

A petition to challenge the election of an electorate candidate can be brought by an elector or a candidate for the electorate concerned. It must be presented within 28 days of the Commission’s declaration of the official results and is made to the High Court.

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