Good afternoon! Right now, Kiwis around the Country are heading to the polls to elect a new Government. It was just announced that 1.24 million people voted prior to today, in a bid by the government to push for higher participation in elections. This represents around 25% of the total resident population of New Zealand.
There has been a worry about falling participation rates in the last few elections, and so there was a big push for early voting this year. It will be seen what the final numbers are, but there is an indication that the 18-29 demographic have maintained their typical anaemic participation rates. Numbers are still in flux so I will wait for the post-mortem before having that discussion.
The weather across the country is fine and fair, which should help drive up participation as well.
The polls close at 7pm local time, and from there, the counting will begin. Ballots in New Zealand are paper, and they are counted twice by a group of people. I worked the election in 2014, and it was a great time learning the civics of my new Country. This year, I will be live responding on social media the results (and I will post here as well, either tonight or tomorrow morning).
This will be interesting. Because I am very into politics in the US, I know a lot about the history, the way government is built, and how it operates. I know the swing states and the swing districts of those states. I know the general trends, and what is going on internally from state to state. With New Zealand, it is a completely blank slate. So this election will be me learning all the areas and places to focus on as results come in, and get a good handle of how the results impact the coalition building that comes afterwards.
So with that, I do know some areas I will be focusing on, reading the returns/tea-leaves and guess what will shake out and who will be Prime Minister tomorrow.
Electorates to watch tonight
So, every place will have electorates that “represent” the country as a whole. These electorates, called “Bellweathers” are districts that may predict the winner as the votes come in. If there is a wave happening in the election, these electorates are the first to show it. Wikipedia has a good rundown on the concept, but here are (generally) the accepted Bellweather Electorates in New Zealand:
What is interesting about these electorates is that they represent entirely the North Island, and all three electorates are within two hours of each other, and worse, it basically encapsulates a single city, Hamilton.
So, I looked a little further and found this blog post using some statistical data from 2014 to extrapolate the most likely bellwethers in this election. It reflected a political blogger who had a post about the new Bellweathers. They are:
- Hamilton West
- Hamilton East
- West Coast – Tasman
- Hutt South
- East Coast
Northcote slipped to 11th in the updated ranking. We will see how the numbers shake out, but I will be focusing on these districts in terms of how the General election is flowing.
Remember the MMP system
Of course, with MMP, we need to track not only how the electorates go, but also the overall party vote. A party must reach 5% of the overall party vote to gain representation in Parliament. The Greens, New Zealand First, and TOP will be trying to hit that 5% mark. ACT, Mana, and Maori party will concentrate in electorates to get into parliament. These parties will make up the possible coalition partners for the two main parties, Labour and National.
So stay tuned, I will do live updates on my social media, and I will write afterthoughts when the results become clear.
Take care, and you have 2 hours to vote if you have not. Get out there!