Election Days

Page 7 – General Elections 1853–2020

The table below provides date and participation information for each New Zealand general election. See the Electoral Commission website for the results of elections held since 1890 and for more detailed information on recent elections, including by–elections and referendums.

Date of general election[1]Date of Māori election[2]Total no. of MPs[3]Total registered electors[4]Official turnout (%)[5]
185314 Jul-1 Oct 375,849 
185526 Oct-28 Dec 379,891[6] 
1860-112 Dec-28 Mar 5313,196 
186612 Feb-6 Apr 7029,320 
1868 15 Apr, 6 May76  
187114 Jan-23 Feb1, 15 Feb7841,527 
1875-620 Dec-29 Jan4, 15 Jan8856,471 
187928 Aug-15 Sep1, 8 Sep8882,27166.5
18819 Dec (Fri)8 Dec (Thu)95120,97266.5
188422 Jul (Tue)21 Jul (Mon)95137,68660.6
188726 Sep (Mon)7 Sep (Wed)95175,41067.1
18905 Dec (Fri)27 Nov (Wed)74183,17180.4
189328 Nov (Tue)20 Dec (Wed)74302,99775.3
18964 Dec (Wed)19 Dec (Thu)74337,02476.1
18996 Dec (Wed)19 Dec (Tue)74373,74477.6
190225 Nov (Tue)22 Dec (Mon)80415,78976.7
19056 Dec (Wed)20 Dec (Wed)80476,47383.3
190817, 24 Nov & 1 Dec (Tue)[7]2 Dec (Wed)80537,00379.8
19117, 14 Dec (Thu)19 Dec (Tue)80590,04283.5
191410 Dec (Thu)11 Dec (Fri)80616,04384.7
191917 Dec (Wed)16 Dec (Tue)80683,42080.5
19227 Dec (Tue)6 Dec (Mon)80700,11188.7
19254 Nov (Wed)3 Nov (Tue)80754,11390.9
192814 Nov (Wed)13 Nov (Tue)80844,63388.1
19312 Dec (Wed)1 Dec (Tue)80874,78783.3
193527 Nov (Wed)26 Nov (Tue)80919,79890.8
193815 Oct (Sat)14 Oct (Fri)80995,17392.9
194325 Sep (Sat)24 Sep (Fri)801,021,034[8]82.8
194627 Nov (Wed)26 Nov (Tue)801,081,89893.5
194930 Nov (Wed)29 Nov (Tue)801,113,85293.5
19511 Sep (Sat hereafter) 801,205,76289.1
195413 Nov 801,209,67091.4
195730 Nov 801,252,32992.9
196026 Nov 801,310,74289.8
196330 Nov 801,345,83689.6
196626 Nov 801,409,60086.0
196929 Nov 841,519,88988.9
197225 Nov 871,583,25689.1
197529 Nov 871,953,05082.5
197825 Nov 922,487,59469.2[9]
198128 Nov 922,034,74791.4
198414 Jul 952,111,65193.7
198715 Aug 972,114,65689.1
199027 Oct 972,202,15785.2
19936 Nov 992,321,66485.2
199612 Oct 1202,418,58788.3
199927 Nov 1202,509,36584.8
200227 Jul 1202,670,03077.0
200517 Sep 1212,847,39680.9
20088 Nov 1222,990,75979.5
201126 Nov 1213,070,84774.2
201420 Sep 1213,140,41777.9
201723 Sep 1203,298,00979.8
202017 Oct 1203,549,58082.2


[1] From 1853 to 1879 general elections took place over a period of weeks or months. As many members were returned unopposed in these years, the range of dates given covers both nomination day and (where required) the day of polling. From 1881 a single day was specified for voting in all general (European) seats, although Māori voting was held on a different day. Since 1951 elections in general and Māori seats have taken place on the same day, and always on a Saturday.

[2] Between 1868 and 1879 dates are given for both nomination and (if required) polling in the four Māori seats. At the first elections in 1868 three of the four members were elected on nomination day (15 Apr), two without opposition and one by show of hands; the fourth was returned in a poll on 6 May. From 1881 only the day of Māori polling is given.

[3] From 1868 includes Māori MPs.

[4] Includes electors enrolled in uncontested seats, who are excluded when calculating turnout (note that all seats have been contested since 1943). Figures from 1860-1 to 1879 exclude gold miners, who were entitled to vote without registration. In 1864 there were 11,838 males aged over 21 on the Otago goldfields, while in 1869-70 20,300 miners throughout New Zealand were entitled to vote under this provision. Māori are excluded until 1951. Rolls for the Māori seats were not compiled until 1949, and those used for that election were clearly incomplete (more votes were cast than electors enrolled). If the official figures for Māori were included, the 1949 turnout would be 94.6%.

[5] Uncontested seats are excluded. Māori are excluded until 1951. Note that the method of calculating official turnout has changed several times: until 1954 it was valid votes plus informal votes as a percentage of total enrolled electors; from 1957 to 1978 valid votes plus informal votes as a percentage of total enrolled electors plus allowed special votes; from 1981 valid votes, informal votes and disallowed special votes as a percentage of total enrolled electors.

[6] Includes an estimated 485 electors enrolled in the New Plymouth, Grey & Bell and Omata electorates, for which figures are not available.

[7] The Second Ballot Act 1908 provided for second ballots (where required) to be held seven days after the first ballot except in ten large rural seats, where fourteen days was allowed. In 1908, 22 second ballots were held on 24 Nov and one (Bay of Plenty) on 1 Dec. At the 1911 election, all 30 second ballots were held seven days later. The Second Ballot Act, which did not apply to the Māori seats, was repealed in 1913. The figures for turnout in these years are for first ballots only.

[8] The figures for enrolled electors and turnout are for civilians only; an additional 92,934 military votes were cast.

[9] This figure is misleading because the electoral rolls in 1978 contained a large number of outdated and duplicate entries. If the 361,000 names deleted in 1979-80 are subtracted, the turnout was 79.9%.

How to cite this page

'General Elections 1853–2020', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/election-day/general-elections, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 12-Feb-2024