The five fascinating election special vote facts you might have missed

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 9 Nov 2020, 12:37PM
The Beehive. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Beehive. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The five fascinating election special vote facts you might have missed

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 9 Nov 2020, 12:37PM

The special votes in New Zealand's election have always had the potential to be a bit of a wildcard – this election was certainly no exception.

They were good news for the likes of the Māori Party and Labour, which both brought in new MPs.

But they were bad news for National, which saw three seats flipped to Labour and the party losing two of its MPs.

The specials also notably reduced the gap between the "yes" and the "no" vote on the cannabis referendum, but ultimately didn't flip the overall no result.

But the influx of votes not counted on election day also tells a number of other stories which many people might have missed.

Here are five fascinating facts about the special votes.

1) The election result got worse for National

The final count meant National's total vote dropped from 26.8 per cent to 25.6 per cent – which is the party's second-worst defeat in its history.

Even before the specials were counted, National has lost the party vote in almost every electorate in the country.

There were only four seats in the country where more people gave National their party vote than they did Labour: Taranaki-King Country, Waikato, Tāmaki and Epsom.

But after the specials were counted, National's lead in three of those seats slipped behind Labour, meaning when the election dust had settled, there was only one seat in the country where National had more party votes than Labour – Epsom.

The final margin in that electorate was less than 600.

National leader Judith Collins campaigning in Auckland. Photo / Jason Walls

National leader Judith Collins campaigning in Auckland. Photo / Jason Walls

2) Māori electorate special votes show overwhelming support for the legalisation of cannabis

There was a clear majority of people voting in New Zealand's seven Māori seats that thought the use of recreational cannabis should be legalised – much higher than most other electorates in the country.

Of the special votes, the average percentage of "yes" votes was almost 79 per cent – that's well above the national average across non- Māori seats, which was just over 58 per cent, according to the special votes.

At 82 per cent, Te Tai Tonga had the highest percentage of "yes" voters, followed by Te Tai Hauāuru which had 80 per cent.

Again looking at the non- Māori seats, Takanini had the lowest percentage of "yes" voters in the specials, with 42 per cent.

As data from the electoral commission lumps the Māori electoral results in with the geographic non- Māori electorates for the non-special votes (for example, Auckland Central and Tāmaki Makaurau were counted together) a breakdown of how these numbers compare to the total vote is not able to be done accurately.

Māori Party MP and co-leader Rawiri Waititi in Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Māori Party MP and co-leader Rawiri Waititi in Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

3) David Seymour likely lost National Whangārei

Midway through the campaign, Act pulled a fast one. The party ran David Seymour as a candidate in Whangārei – not David Seymour the party leader, but another man with the same name.

Senior Act party officials believe running someone with the same name as their leader in the seat might have confused a number of would-be Act voters to give their electorate vote, as well as their party vote, to Act.

The result? The Seymour running in Whangārei received 2153 votes – the fourth-highest any Act candidate, including leader Seymour, received and much high than the majority of Act candidates across the country.

After the specials were counted, Reti lost the seat by 431 votes.

4) Greens overtake Act as the third-biggest political party

It's fair to say Act had a meteoric rise this election. The party went from having just one MP in Parliament to having 10.

There are a number of things that contributed to Act success in this election. But the main reason is most likely because National did poorly.

Ahead of the 2017 election when Labour was polling in the mid to low 20s, the Greens saw a surge in support and at one point were polling at 15 per cent.

It's a similar story with Act this election: it appeared picked up support from unhappy National voters who still wanted to place a right-wing vote.

On election night, Act won 8 per cent of the total vote ahead of the Greens with 7.6 per cent.

But after the special votes were counted, the Greens gained 0.3 percentage points, while Act dropped 0.4. That means at 7.9 per cent, the Greens are New Zealand's third-biggest political party.

Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Michael Craig

Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Michael Craig

5) Jacinda Ardern is officially New Zealand's most popular MP … but only just

Believe it or not, on election night Jacinda Ardern wasn't New Zealand's most popular MP.

She was pipped by her then-Health Minister Chris Hipkins, who won 24,911 votes in the Remutaka electorate.

Ardern was second, winning 16,577, although Remutaka is a bigger electorate than Ardern's Mt Albert.

But when the special votes were tallied up, Ardern had pushed Hipkins off his throne - just.

The final count shows Ardern won 29,238 votes in Mt Albert compared to Hipkins' 29,217 – a 21-vote margin.