New Zealand

Head of State: Governor General

Leader of Government: Prime Minister

Electoral Authority: Electoral Commission


House of Representatives

Term of Parliament

Up to 3 years.

Number of members

Parliament is normally made up of 120 members – 71 electorate MPs and 49 list MPs. 

However, the size of Parliament can increase if a party wins more electorate seats than it is entitled to based on its share of the party vote (this is referred to as an overhang seat). When this happens the party keeps the extra seat(s) and the size of Parliament is increased by that number of seats until the next election.

The current Parliament consists of 121.

Electoral legislation

Electoral Act 1993

Electoral Regulations 1996

Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993

Referenda (Postal Voting) Act 2000

Broadcasting Act 1989

Constitution Act 1986

Voting systems (definitions)

Mixed Member Proportional

Enrolment and voting eligibility

It is compulsory to be enrolled if eligible.


A person is eligible to enrol in New Zealand if they are 18 years or older, and a NZ citizen or permanent resident, and have lived in New Zealand for one year or more continuously at some point.


People who are 17 years old can provisionally enrol and will be automatically enrolled when they turn 18.


A person is disqualified from being registered to vote if they are a New Zealand citizen who has not been in New Zealand within last three years or a permanent resident of New Zealand who has not been in NZ within the last 12 months or in prison serving a sentence of imprisonment.


Voting is not compulsory.

Redistribution provisions and frequency

Electoral Act 1993 (ss 28 to 44)


Electoral boundaries are reviewed after each census of population and dwellings and the Maori Electoral Option.  This means the boundaries are reviewed around every five years.


The number of general electorates for the South Island are fixed in the Electoral Act at 16.  The number of North Island general electorates and Maori electorates are calculated using the methods prescribed in the Electoral Act using the quota for the South Island general electorates, so that all districts are have around the same number of people in them.  The Electoral Act allows each district to be ± 5% of quota.


The Representation Commission, a quasi-judicial independent body, is responsible for the fixing the names and boundaries of districts in accordance with the statutory criteria in the Electoral Act.

Joint Rolls Arrangements for parliamentary and local body elections

The electoral rolls compiled for parliamentary elections are also used by local Councils for local authority elections.  Provision is made in the Electoral Act for the Electoral Commission to supply electoral roll data to local authorities for the conduct of elections and polls.

Funding, Donations and Disclosure Provisions

The only funding for parliamentary elections is to registered parties for the broadcast of advertising on TV, radio and the internet in the election period between writ day and election day (one month).  For the 2017 general election the amount is $4,145,750 (including GST).  The Electoral Commission is responsible for administering the allocation in accordance with the requirements of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The amount remains the same as at a preceding election unless Parliament appropriates additional funding.


Registered parties, electorate candidates and third parties are subject to advertising spending limits in the regulated period (which is normally three months prior to a general election).  The amounts are CPI adjusted by Order in Council on 1 July each year.  All parties and candidates must file a return after an election even if they did not incur any expenditure.  Third parties must only file a return if they spend more than $100,000 during the regulated period.


Registered parties are required to report on donations and loans on an annual basis and must immediately report donations and loans over $30,000.


Candidates are required to disclose donations made to their campaign over specified limits.


All returns are lodged with the Electoral Commission and are published on the Elections New Zealand Website.

Interesting and Particular Feature(s)

Maori electorates were established in 1867 to provide representation for Maori.  Since 1975 Maori have been able to choose whether to enrol and vote on the Maori roll or the general roll.  In 1993 the Electoral Act was amended to allow the number of Maori electorates to vary according to the size of the population on the Maori rolls.  This is similar to the calculation used to determine the number of North Island general electorates.  At present there are 7 Maori electorates.


Voters can vote at any voting place or advance voting place at New Zealand parliamentary elections.


There are a number of services for voters who are unable to get to a voting place including takeaway and postal voting and dictation voting for blind and vision impaired voters and we also provide a range of services for overseas voters.



Proportional Representation

Name of proportional representation system

Mixed Member Proportional

Ballot Paper

Ticket Voting Above or beside the line voting

Beside the line voting

Rotation of candidate names

Electorate candidates are arranged alphabetically by surname on the right-hand side of the ballot paper with any registered logo to the right of the name (the electorate vote).


If the candidate’s party is contesting the party vote, the name of the party is printed opposite the name of the candidate on the left-hand side of the ballot paper (the party vote)


If the candidate is an independent, the space on the left-hand side of the ballot paper, opposite the candidate’s name, is left empty.


Parties contesting the party vote but not the electorate vote are listed alphabetically on the left-hand side of the ballot paper, after the other parties.


Party vote:

  • Place a tick by the name of the political party of your choice.
  • You can vote for only one party.


Electorate vote:

  • Place a tick by the name of the candidate you would most like to be your member of Parliament.
  • Can vote for only one candidate.


Can choose to only complete the party vote or only complete the candidate vote.


Any voting papers that are returned blank, or where the voter takes deliberate action to spoil the paper, or an error by the voter means that their intention is not clear, will be counted as informal votes.


A vote is invalid where the voter is not qualified to vote and the vote is therefore disallowed.  For example, this includes voters who are not enrolled.

Distribution of a Surplus




Election of a candidate


Electorate candidates are elected by simple majority – the candidate with the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.


A party must win at least one electorate seat or 5% of the party vote to get a share of the list seats in Parliament.  The Electoral Act 1993 prescribes a mathematical formula, called the Sainte-Laguë formula, be applied for the allocation of list seats. More information about the allocation process is available on the elections New Zealand website.

Casual Vacancies

How is a casual vacancy filled?

A vacancy is filled when the current MP resigns or dies. A vacancy does not have to be filled if a general election is to be held within 6 months of the occurrence of the vacancy and 75% or more members of the House resolve that the vacancy does not need to be filled.


A by-election is held for a vacancy in an electorate seat.  The Electoral Commission is responsible for the conduct of by-elections in accordance with the requirements of the Electoral Act.  The ballot paper for a by-election only provides for an electorate vote and only registered electors in the district are eligible to vote.  There is no re-allocation of list seats following a by-election.


The Electoral Act prescribes the process that must be followed for filling a list vacancy. List vacancies are filled by the Electoral Commission once the seat has become vacant.  The process is completed over one day.  The next person on the party’s list will be elected provided they remain a member of the party and are willing to become an MP.