How will special vote affect the result?

The short answer is that no one knows, and there’s no way of knowing until the final results are published on 7 October (Saturday next week).

But that hasn’t stopped people from guessing, or assuming based on past effects of special votes on election night totals.

It is widely presumed that National will lose a seat or two (they lost 1 in 2014 after specials were counted) or possibly two, and Greens are expected to pick one up and possibly Labour as well.

But this election has been quite different to past elections.

There are an estimated 384,072 special votes to be counted, up from about 300 thousand in 2014 and about 15% of the total vote. They include:

  • votes cast overseas;
  • votes cast by the telephone dictation service;
  • votes cast on polling day by people voting at a voting place not designated to serve their electorate;
  • votes cast by people who enrolled after the printed electoral roll was closed (including during advance voting);
  • votes cast by people on the unpublished roll; and
  • votes cast by people who think they’re enrolled to vote, but aren’t (these votes don’t count).

It is assumed that many young people enrolled and voted, especially at university polling places, so that is likely to favour Labour and the Greens. But the turnout of younger voters is usually relatively low.

In Election 2017: the Special Votes Graeme Edgeler tries to estimate the shift in support from specials based on the movement last election.

…using the same rudimentary method I used last time (assuming the variance in special votes is the same size as it was at the 2014 election), along with the Electoral Commission’s estimate of the number of special votes at this election, I predict the following final result:

  Preliminary Projected
  Vote share Seats Vote share Seats
National 46.03% 58 44.86% 56
Labour 35.79% 45 36.55% 46
New Zealand First 7.51% 9 7.32% 9
The Greens 5.85% 7 6.32% 8
TOP 2.21% 0 2.35% 0
Maori Party 1.08% 0 1.12% 0
ACT 0.51% 1 0.51% 1

In 2014, National did 17% worse on special votes than they did with ordinary votes, while the Greens did 53% better. This was enough to see National lose one seat after special votes were counted, and the Greens to pick one up.

Edgeler makes it clear that this is a guess:

This time, assuming (perhaps foolishly) that the same basic numbers apply, and with the larger number of Special Votes still to be counted, both Labour and the Greens are within striking distance of of taking a list seat from National.

There is something else we may get an idea from – the trends in polls during the  voting period (advance votes and election day).

We don’t know when Special Votes were cast. We can assume that many were cast during advance voting, but there could also have been a lot on election day.

The voting period was from 11 September to 23 September. Most of the advance votes were in the last few days, not covered by polling periods.

Polls show that before voting started in early September they favoured Labour over National, and Greens had already recovered after earlier bottoming out below 5%.

The last polls before the election:

  • Colmar Brunton 2-6 September: NAT 39, LAB 43, NZF 9, GRN 5
  • Roy Morgan 28 Aug-10 Sep: NAT 40, LAB 39.5, NZF 6, GRN 9
  • Reid Research 6-11 September: NAT 47.3, LAB 37.8, NZF 6, GRN 4.9
  • Colmar Brunton 9-13 September: NAT 40, LAB 44, NZF 6, GRN 7
  • Reid Research 13-20 September: NAT 45.8, LAB 37.3, NZF 7.1, GRN 7.1
  • Colmar Brunton 15-19 September: NAT 46, LAB 37, NZF 4.9, GRN 8

The last polls have similar results to the election, suggesting the poll swings had settled down by the second week of voting when most advance votes were cast.

This is inconclusive. Reid Research suggests support had already swung back to National from Labour while Colmar Brunton suggests a late swing.

Both show a late swing to the Greens but mostly before voting started. NZ First were up and down.

There is really not enough information about the special votes to do anything other than guess what effect they will have on the outcome.

All we really know is that there was quite a bit of late support movement , and this may or may not impact on special vote support of various parties.

One notable thing about voting patterns on election night – pundits kept suggesting, based on past election patterns, that as the results came in support was likely to swing against National by a percent or two (44% was mentioned) and increase for Labour. This barely happened – National support dropped a little but stayed in the 49-47% range.

But we simply don’t know if a smaller swing against National than last election is likely or not after special votes are counted.

We can guess, but we should be careful about having much confidence in assumptions that pundits make. There have also been many surprises in this election.

Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Blazer

     /  26th September 2017

    the Greens are on the cusp of another seat..specials should tip them…in.

    • Conspiratoor

       /  26th September 2017

      Yes but how will it change things

    • The Greens “cusping” will count for nothing for their supporters, even if the hard right wing OAP from Herne Bay and Whananaki goes with the vaguely left Labour. The Greens will be as usual rendered helpless, feckless, powerless and ineffectual. They’ll achieve nothing as they always have. Zero, zilch, nada. They have proved themselves hell bent on SJ issues, illusory poverty and free money for the unproductive over any environmental gains. Winston won’t allow consideration of a single issue they declare important and they’ll be Party to a vote on Maori seats.

      Chloe Swarbrick? How asinine that Kennedy is given the boot for this child.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  26th September 2017

    Dunno. Why does it take so long to count them? Don’t they have any computers?

    • NOEL

       /  26th September 2017

      How many algorithms would need to be included find full ticks, part ticks,wiggly ticks and upside down ticks to name a few. Then there would probably be a demand for a human visual recheck anyway.

  3. Gezza

     /  26th September 2017

    If the balloon goes up before the dirty deals in dingy dives are done, have we actually got a government to launch retaliatory strikes (or whatever) at the moment?

    • High Flying Duck

       /  27th September 2017

      Yes we do. National retain “caretaker” status over the Government benches until the new government is formed.

  1. How will special vote affect the result? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: