Special votes cast in general election

6 December 1905

Casting a special vote, 2008 (Nigel Roberts, Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

For the first time in New Zealand’s electoral history, registered voters who were away from their electorate on polling day were able to cast a ‘special’ absentee vote at any polling booth in the country; this would then be posted to their local returning officer for counting. Prior to election day in 1905, 3586 electors applied for the necessary absent voter’s permit, and 2781 votes were cast this way.

This innovation extended the concept of absentee voting rights, which had first been introduced for merchant seafarers in 1890, and then extended to commercial travellers and shearers. But the provision did not apply to voters in the Māori seats, who continued to vote without registration (Māori electoral rolls were not used until 1949).

The wait for special votes to be counted has occasionally added drama to tight electoral or referendum contests, including, for example, the 1919 prohibition poll (see 10 April). In 1999 special votes not only tipped the Green Party over the 5 per cent threshold needed to enter Parliament, but also saw them win the Coromandel seat.

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