Referendum results - yes to euthanasia, no to cannabis; PM voted yes for both

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 30 Oct 2020, 1:04PM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Referendum results - yes to euthanasia, no to cannabis; PM voted yes for both

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 30 Oct 2020, 1:04PM

KEY POINTS:

• The results are in: It's YES to euthanasia, NO to legalising cannabis, preliminary numbers show.
• Preliminary results were released at 2pm today; final results are released next Friday, November 6.
• The final results will include about 480,000 special votes. ZB's political editor Barry Soper says that could mean an eventual 'yes' vote for cannabis.
• If it's a "yes" for euthanasia, it will be about a year before terminal patients can request assisted dying.

New Zealanders have voted yes on euthanasia, no on cannabis legalisation, preliminary numbers show.

With an estimated 17 per cent of votes still to be counted, 65.2 per cent voted in support of the End of Life Choice Act, while 53.1 per cent voted against the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

Supporters of cannabis reform were looking for at least a close margin in the preliminary referendum results, which were released at 2pm.

Recent polls had the "no" vote on legalising cannabis substantially ahead of the "yes" vote.

The final results, which include the special votes, will be released on November 6.

After the results were announced, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed she voted yes in favour of both referendums. 

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ACT leader David Seymour thanked MPs for supporting the End of Life Choice Bill through Parliament.

He also thanked Dame Jenny Gibbs for "giving me the courage as a young MP to pursue this cause", Brooke van Veldon for her work in rallying support in Parliament for the bill, and National MP Chris Bishop.

He said New Zealand would be "a kinder, more compassionate, more humane society - what a great day to be a Kiwi".

 

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Seymour is hosting an event at Parliament from 1pm that will hear from Shirley Seales and, via Skype from New York, Matt Vickers - the mother and widowed husband of euthanasia campaigner Lecretia Seales.

A large margin in today's result would effectively mark the end of the five-year journey for Seymour since he first put the End of Life Choice Bill in the ballot.

"I think that's a massive step forward for New Zealand as a humane and civilised society," said Seymour, who was quietly confident of a result in his favour.

The referendum is binding and a majority "yes" vote would see it become law, with terminal patients able to request assisted dying from November 6 next year.

Former prime minister Helen Clark, who supports a "yes" vote on cannabis, told the Herald legalising cannabis could make a positive difference in thousands of people's lives.

"The jury is out on whether New Zealand will move with the times, recognise the reality of widespread cannabis availability and use and regulate around that, or whether it will continue to look the other way and let the harmful impacts of prohibition continue to be felt."

Justice Minister Andrew Little is speaking to media in Parliament at 2.15pm today, and Green MP Chloe Swarbrick will address media at 3pm at the Albert Park fountain in Auckland.

At 4pm, the Say Nope to Dope campaign will hold a press conference at the Urban Soul cafe in Manukau.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has refrained from saying how she voted in the cannabis referendum, but it remains unclear whether she will reveal that today or whether she will wait until the final results on November 6.

She voted in support of the End of Life Choice Bill.

The Electoral Commission said the two-week wait for the preliminary referendum results was down to prioritising the votes for the general election, for which preliminary results were released within hours of polling booths closing.

"We're guided by the Referendums Framework Act which made it clear that the priority was to get the official count of election results under way first, so that the referendum count did not delay the final general election results," a commission spokeswoman said.

"We have a dedicated team of about 1200 people counting the referendum votes at electorate headquarters. On election day, there were more than 20,000 people working in voting places and counting votes to help produce the preliminary election results."