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Guide to 2008 NZ Election
Archived NZ Parlt 2005-08
Archived NZ Parlt 2002-05
Our Parliament House
International perspectives on democracy
Electing Parliament
General-election results
Parliamentary parties
NZ First
United Future
Forming the government
Composition of Parliament
The role of the Speaker
Who drafts the laws?
How laws are made
How a bill becomes an act
The Office of the Clerk
Parliamentary Service
MP's pay
A Labour example - Darren Hughes
A National example -
John Key
Select committees
Select commitee members
Petitioning Parliament
Visiting Parliament
Opinion polls
Parliamentary history
The New Zealand Business and Parliament Trust



Electing Parliament 2008?

Electing Parliament

Who does what?
Election results
Get yourself on the roll
MMP is a Proportional Voting System
Maori Electoral Option 2006

The MPs and the political parties in New Zealand’s Parliament — the House of Representatives — are elected by the people to represent us. Elections are held at least every three years.The next election is due by the end of 2008, but it could be held earlier. The advice in this briefing was provided for DecisionMaker for the 2005 election, and until updated, DecisionMaker offers it as a reasonable guidance in planning for the next election. Already at least one change can be anticipated - the exercise of the Maori Electoral Option during 2006, and its possible impact on the number of Maori seats in future Parliaments.

It is important that you vote, because the laws passed by Parliament and the decisions made by the government affect you, your country and the area in which you live.

There is universal suffrage in New Zealand. All citizens and permanent residents aged 18 and older have the right to vote. Every citizen who is enrolled as an elector is eligible to be a candidate for election as a Member of Parliament.

A political party that gains more than half the 120 seats in Parliament at a general election can form a majority government by itself. If no one party has an outright majority of MPs, two or more parties with a combined majority of seats can form a majority coalition government. If no one party has an outright majority and no majority coalition can be agreed upon, one or more parties can form a minority government with the support of other parties outside the government.

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy. Our sovereign, the Queen of New Zealand, is the Head of State. The Queen’s representative, the Governor-General, has all the powers of the Queen in relation to New Zealand. Although an integral part of the process of government, the Queen and the Governor-General remain politically neutral and do not get involved in the political contest.

Get yourself on the roll

Before you can vote, your name must be on the electoral roll. The electoral roll is a record of all enrolled New Zealand voters that is kept up to date between elections.

To register as an elector a person must be at least 17 years of age, a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident, and must have lived in the country for at least one year at some stage during their life. You must also have lived continuously for at least one month at the address for which you apply to be registered.

Once you have enrolled as an elector, you must let a Registrar of Electors know whenever you shift to a new address. You can do this by filling in a 'Change of Address Request' form at any PostShop or postal agency, or by updating your address on the electoral website, .

People who fail to advise their new address are removed from the electoral roll and will need to re-enrol.

A roll for each General and Māori electorate is printed every year (and twice in a general election year) showing each elector’s name, address and occupation. Printed rolls are available for public inspection at each Registrar of Electors’ office, PostShops, public libraries and courthouses. Anyone can also check their enrolment through the electoral website.

If you are of Māori descent and enrolling for the first time, you can choose to go on either the General or the Māori electoral roll. Once enrolled you cannot change the type of roll you are on until the next Māori Electoral Option, which is held every five years, after a census.

By going on the Māori roll you’ll be voting for a Māori electorate MP instead of a General electorate MP. But everyone chooses between the same parties with their Party Vote.

Maori Electoral Option: April - August 2006

The Ministers of Justice and Maori Affairs, Mark Burton and Parekura Horomia announced at the end of 2005 that the Maori Electoral Option would run from April to August 2006.

Justice Minister Mark Burton said that the Maori Electoral Option gives Maori the opportunity to choose whether to be enrolled on the general electoral roll or the Maori electoral roll.

The Maori Electoral Option is held as close as possible to the five yearly New Zealand Population and Dwelling Census, planned for March 2006.

"Updated statistics from the Census are used to determine the number of electorates for the next scheduled general election.

"Currently some 380,000 people identified of Maori descent are enrolled to vote. 210,000 people are on the Maori electoral roll.

“The decisions Maori make during the Maori Electoral Option also helps decide the number of Maori electorates for the next election,” Mark Burton said.

"The first four Maori seats were established by the Maori Representation Act in 1867. One hundred and twenty-six years later in 1993 this number was increased to 5 by the electoral act. Nine years on from then the number of Maori seats rose to 7 – what we have today," said Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia.

"Since the 1868 general election that first brought Maori MPs into existence there have been in excess of 80 Maori members of parliament (many of this number have served multiple terms)," Parekura Horomia added.

The Ministers encourage all Maori to ensure that they are enrolled on a roll because the most important thing is to participate.

The responsibility for running the 2006 Maori Electoral Option was placed with the Electoral Enrolment Centre.

Find out more about the Maori Electoral Option.

MMP is a Proportional Voting System

Under New Zealand’s proportional electoral system, each elector can cast two votes, both of which are printed side by side on a single ballot paper:

  • the Party Vote shows all the registered political parties that have nominated a party list for the general election. Every voter chooses among the same parties on the Party Vote, regardless of whether he or she is enrolled for a General electorate or a Māori electorate
  • the Electorate Vote is for an electorate MP to represent the General or Māori electorate for which the voter is enrolled as an elector.

Voters need to know that, in general, each qualifying party’s share of the MPs in the House of Representatives is decided by its share of all the Party Votes. To qualify for a share of the 120 seats in Parliament a political party has to win an electorate seat or at least five percent of the Party Votes. So, for example, a party that wins 20% of the Party Votes can expect to have 24 Members of Parliament.

If a party’s share of the Party Votes entitles it to more seats than the number of electorate seats it has won, the party gets whatever number of list MPs is needed to bring it up to the right total.

But if a party’s share entitles it to fewer seats than the number of electorate seats it has won, it still keeps its electorate seats. These are known as overhang seats and the total number of seats in Parliament increases by that number until the next election.

List MPs come from the list nominated by each party before the election. They are elected in the order they appear on the party’s list, after deleting any candidates who won electorate seats.

Who does what?

Electoral administration is currently shared by three main agencies:

The Chief Electoral Office (part of the Ministry of Justice) conducts elections and national referenda. It appoints Returning Officers in each of the 69 electorates. Contact:

The Electoral Commission is responsible for the registration of political parties and the supervision of their compliance with the requirements of the Electoral Act relating to election expenses and disclosure of donations. It also allocates election broadcasting time and funds to political parties and has a public information role. Contact:
The Electoral Enrolment Centre (part of New Zealand Post) is responsible for enrolling electors and keeping the electoral rolls up to date. It also conducts the Māori Electoral Option. Contact:

Graphic shows instructions for voting.

Find out More!

To find out more about New Zealand’s electoral system go to the Electoral Commission's website or contact the Electoral Commission or phone (4) 474 0670

Maori electoral Option content and link, and headline, updated 21 December 2005 - basic content retained from 2003.


Its in your hands poster

As more than the media say, you can and should help make a difference on polling days