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New record set as thousands vote early amid Covid-19 precautions

Hundreds of thousands of Kiwis at home and overseas cast their ballot ahead of election day next Saturday, setting a new record for advance voting numbers. 

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Q+A explores the phenomenon in this year’s so-called Covid-19 election. Source: Q+A

As of Friday, Electoral Commission data showed 585,883 people voted early during the first six days of the advance voting period. At the same time in 2017, 398,726 people had voted.

Graeme Astle, the Electoral Commission’s national manager of voting services is pleased with the turnout, is rapt with the turnout at his year’s so-called Covid-19 election. 

“It's school holidays, the weather’s been good and people have been getting out and about,” he said.

Earlier this month, Electoral Commission chief electoral officer Alicia Wright encouraged people to “vote early and vote local”. Advance voting makes it easier to observe Covid-19 protocols and process votes. 

But not all parties are heeding the advice. 

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Millions of NZers are expected to vote prior to the general election day on October 17. Source: 1 NEWS

While National and Labour urged people to vote early, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is asking people to wait until election day.

"Only a fool tests the water with both feet, know all the facts first,” he said earlier this month. 

He also questioned the hoardings and campaign advertisements that were still up while people voted in advance. Current election advertising rules say all parties must take down their hoardings and campaign material before election day. 

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'Know all the facts first' - Winston Peters urges public to vote on election day

But voters have been heading to the polling booths early, anyway. 

That includes those currently overseas or in managed isolation. 

Andrew Sewell recently arrived from Los Angeles, and voted via an adapted version of the dictation system for sight-impaired voters. 

“I never thought I'd be voting in managed isolation border control,” he said.

But there are still 13 per cent of enrolled voters who are undecided, according to the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll.

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The Electoral Commission said it was looking as if more than 60 per cent of people are going to vote early. Source: 1 NEWS

Victoria University professor and political scientist Jack Vowles said without swing voters, “we wouldn't have any electoral change”.

“So they’re the most important people in a way.”

He said people who say they are “undecided” in polls may end up not voting at all. 

But, with people now able to vote and enroll on election day, eleventh-hour voters still have a chance to have their say.

In the meantime, politicians are spending the last few days on the campaign trail trying to court those still on the fence.