Disallowed special votes

Relatively very small numbers apart from ‘not enrolled anywhere’.

Election final result possibilities

While we wait for the final election results (due on Saturday) there has been a lot of number crunching going on to try to predict whether there will be any changes to the number of seats in Parliament for any party.

It should be noted that this election was quite different to past elections – polls were quite variable and there were late swings in support, and there is a much significantly number of special votes to be added to the provisional result, about 380,000.

Cut Your Hair looks at Realistic possibilities for Parliament post-specials (all two of them)

On the basis of past election results since 1999, there are only two likely scenarios for how the preliminary seat allocations in Parliament will change after special votes are counted:

  1. Golriz Ghahraman (Green) is in. Nicola Willis (National) is out.
    • This is what will happen if the special vote results are like what they’ve been most MMP elections in NZ.
    • On this scenario, A Nat-NZF government would have 66/120 seats. A Lab-NZF-Green government would have 62/120.
  2. Golriz Ghahraman (Green) and Angie Warren-Clark (Labour) are in. Nicola Willis and Maureen Pugh (both National) are out.
    • This is what will happen if the special votes are like what they were like last election.
    • On this scenario, a Nat-NZF government would have 65/120 seats. A Lab-NZF-Green government would have 63/120.

A lot of numbers are given supporting this, analysing the shift in support from special votes in all the elections from 1999 to 2014.

A number of less likely (most very unlikely) scenarios are detailed.

But we have to wait until Saturday to find out how the votes actually add up.




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.

Don’t rule out all Special Vote possibilities

The current seat allocation (from the Electoral Commission) based on provisional election results:

  • National 58
  • Labour 45
  • NZ First 9
  • Green Party 7
  • ACT Party 1
  • TOTAL 120

This means:

  • National + ACT = 59
  • Labour + NZ First + Greens = 61

There are a lot of assumptions that when the special votes are counted this will change, and the likely change is for Greens or Labour to pick up a seat and for National to lose a seat – this is because last election National lost a seat and Greens gained a seat after the Specials were included.

This is important because if National lose a seat it would give a bit of a buffer over and above a bare 1 seat majority.

Some have suggested National could lose two seats and maybe both Labour and Greens will pick up one each.

But there have been many surprise twists and turns in this election, and there could be more to come.

There are more Specials – about 380 thousand compared to about 300 thousand in 2014 – but this election had quite different factors involved, so don’t rule out other possibilities, which include no change, or any of Labour, Greens or NZ First losing a seat, and National picking up a seat.

Specials have historically favoured Greens in particular and also Labour, and have gone against both National and NZ First.

If NZ First lost a seat and Labour or Greens picked one up it wouldn’t change anything significantly.

But if any of NZ First, Greens or Labour lose a seat and National pick it up that would mean that National + Act = Labour + NZ First + Greens, a tie.

The only way of getting a majority would be for NZ First or Greens (or Labour theoretically) to go with National.

As much as we may like to know how our next Government is going to look as soon as possible, this is why decisions are unlikely to be made until the final results are announced on 7 October.

Total votes and turnout

Total provisional votes: 2,169,802

Special votes (about): 384,000

Estimated total votes: 2,553,802

Total votes in 2014: 2,416,479

Approximate increase in votes 2014 to 2017:  137,323

Estimated eligible voters: 3,569,830

Estimated turnout of eligible voters: 71.5%
BUT the statistics commonly used are percentage of enrolled voters.

Estimated turnout of enrolled voters: 78.8%

So that is a slight increase on last election (where Labour did very poorly). Past turnout:






1.2 million advance votes

There have been 1,240,740 advance votes this election.

In 2014 there were 717,579 so there are nearly twice as many this time.

There were 2,416,479 votes in total in 2014, so there nearly 30% advance votes. This time it looks like being closer to 50% advance votes.


Advance votes that aren’t special votes are being counted from 9 am today. The Electoral Commission has a target of reporting them by 8.30 pm tonight, so there will be a big chunk of votes counted by then, possibly earlier.

That may or may not give us a good idea of what the final result may be. Polls were fluctuating a lot during the advance vote period (the last two weeks). If there was a late swing that won’t be evident until most votes are counted tonight, and then there will be a lot of uncounted special votes that could swing things again, further or back the other way.

Votes that were cast at the same time as enrolment are special votes so they won’t be counted today, they will be included in the final count on 7 October. Last election there were nearly 300,000 special votes.

There could be anywhere from 0.3 to half a million special votes this time, so if the result is close tonight, especially if any of Greens, NZ First or TOP are close to the threshold,  there could be a lot of uncertainty about the result for two weeks. If results in key electorates Northland and Epsom are close there will be further uncertainty.

We will find out a lot in a few hours time, but may have to be patient for a couple of weeks.

Daily totals for 2017 are approximate only and may be subject to change.

Date 2017 General Election 2014 General Election 2011 General Election
Wed-Sat 49497 18818
11 September 39570 22234 8893
12 September 48238 22846 8845
13 September 66084 23950 9750
14 September 72932 29033 11041
15 September 82422 31753 13399
16 September 89480 46200 20115
17 September 45306
18 September 105228 60966 27841
19 September 123307 62595 32937
20 September 133813 86021 38380
21 September 180887 122017 64137
22 September 253473 160467 80402
Overall total 1240740 717579 334558


How soon will we know the election result?

Due to large numbers of advance votes, which will be counted during the day tomorrow and will presumably be released soon after voting closes, we may get a good idea of the likely outcome soon after after 7 pm Saturday night.

But if the overall result is close, or if Greens, NZ First or TOP are close to the threshold, or if key electorates such as Northland or Epsom are close, then we may have to wait until later in the evening, or two weeks for official (final) results on 7 October.

Up to Wednesday 806,043 people had advance voted, more than the total  of 717,579 for 2014.

Cumulative Advance Votes Issued

With two days to add that looks likely to get well over a million early votes (I’ll update this post when yesterday’s numbers become available today).

It could get close to a half of votes being cast in advance this election. The total votes in 2014 were 2,416,479 – there may be more this time as we have a bigger voting population unless turnout drops.

Advance votes will be counted during the day tomorrow, so a large number of votes should be announced soon after voting closes at 7 pm tomorrow. We may pretty much know the election result fairly early.

A few people have been saying Don’t bother waiting up. Advance votes will tell you who won

As advance voting has increased advance voting totals have got closer to final results:

Party vote change 2002 to 2014 from advanced to final.png


The 2014 swing from National to Labour was close to 1.5%, and that swing the result (or at least the party with the biggest vote).

Greens improved by about 0.7% and that may swing them from under the threshold to over it.

If the total vote swings the same way for NZ First it could drop them below the threshold.

Will TOP defy polls and get close to The Opportunities Party?

There are also some key electorates. Northland will be crucial for NZ First if they miss the threshold. Epsom is crucial for ACT. The Maori Party need to win at least one electorate (they look odds on to win two).


Votes that are cast when people enrol at the same time are Special Votes, so are not counted on election night. There were nearly 300,000 special votes in 2014 that weren’t counted on election night.

There have been reports that many young people have been enrolling and voting. This could skew the special votes more in favour of Labour and the Greens.

Graeme Edgeler analysed Election 2014: The Special Votes

…adopting the same method I used last time, based solely on how special votes broke in 2011, along with the Electoral Commission’s estimate of the number of special votes at this election, I predict the following final result:

Preliminary Estimated
National 48.06% 61 47.24% 61
Labour 24.69% 32 25.05% 32
Green 10.02% 13 10.50% 13
New Zealand First 8.85% 11 8.52% 11
Māori Party 1.29% 2 1.38% 2
ACT 0.69% 1 0.68% 1
United Future 0.22% 1* 0.21% 1*
Conservative 4.12% 0 3.92% 0
Internet MANA 1.26% 0 1.38% 0
121 121

This underestimated changes in overall percentages. The final results and percentages:


If the advance voting totals are close, or if the election night votes are close, then we may have to wait another two weeks to find out the final result.

If any parties are in doubt due to close electorate or threshold results governing and coalition negotiations may not be able to seriously begin until after October 7 when final results will be announced.

And remember that the party with the most votes may not be able to form a government, so the advance vote ‘winner’ or the election night ‘winner’, may not end up being the winner by votes, and may or may not lead the next government.