This article is focused on New Zealand law and explains issues from a Common law perspective.

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New Zealand voting rights


The right to vote is an inherent right of New Zealanders. The law establishing this right and stating the eligibility requirements for voting are contained in the ELECTORAL ACT 1993.

Who is eligible to vote?

To be able to vote in a general election in New Zealand you must satisfy all of the following conditions:

  • You must be a citizen of New Zealand or a permanent resident.
  • You must be 18 years of age or older.
  • You must at some time have lived continuously in New Zealand for at least one year.
  • You must be registered as a voter on the electoral roll for your electorate.

To be qualified to enrol in an electorate, the electorate must be the last in which you have lived continuously for at least a month.

Am I required to enrol if I'm eligible to vote?

Yes, New Zealanders have a legal obligation to enrol to vote, and may be fined if they do not enrol.

What if I'm travelling when an election is held?

You retain the right to vote if you are travelling at the time of the election. If you know that you are going to be away, you may be able to cast your vote early; you can find out if this is possible by contacting the Returning Officer for your electorate once the time for nominations has closed. If you have not been able to cast an early vote and you are out of your electorate on election day, you can cast a special vote at any polling booth.

You can even cast a vote if you are overseas. You should contact the nearest New Zealand diplomatic representative (such as a NZ Embassy or High Commission) and they will help you arrange to vote.

What if I'm in prison when the election is held?

If you are awaiting trial in prison, you can vote. But if you're serving a prison term after having been convicted you do not have the right to vote.

Once you have been released from prison, your right to vote will be restored.

Cautionary notes
  • If you change your address you will need to notify the Registrar of Electors, otherwise this may disqualify you from voting in your new electorate.

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