This section explains when and how votes are counted and results are released, as well as the processes for a recount or election petition.
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 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 voting starts 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.
Our target is to have advance vote results available by 8.30pm.
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 voting papers for the wrong electorate 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 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 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. 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.
The Commission expects to make this declaration four working days after publishing the official results, subject to any recount applications.
After the declaration of the official results, electorate candidates can apply to a District Court Judge for a recount of the electorate vote.
Only party secretaries may apply for a recount of the party vote.
The only way to challenge the election of an electorate candidate is by election petition. A petition may be brought by an elector or a candidate and is heard by three High Court Judges. It must be brought within 28 days of the Commission declaring the official results.
Only the party secretary of a party contesting the party vote can challenge the election of list candidates. To do this, they bring a petition to the Court of Appeal.