No voting papers? Don’t panic. You can still exercise your democratic right

Voting in local elections is under way, and you should have received your ballot papers by now in the mail. But if you haven’t, don’t panic. Jolisa Gracewood, Hayden Donnell, and Alice Webb-Liddall have put together this guide to how to vote anyway.

The Spinoff local election coverage is entirely funded by The Spinoff Members. For more about becoming a member and supporting The Spinoff’s journalism, click here.

There’s a lot riding on our choices this election. With the climate clock ticking, the next three years will make a huge difference to our future, and who’s in charge of the city’s decisions will set the tone. So voting really matters.  

We all know this, but sometimes life gets in the way. Maybe you haven’t enrolled to vote yet. Maybe you’re enrolled, but you’ve moved three times this year and lost track. Maybe you don’t feel like your vote makes a difference.

It does. Only 43% of people voted in the last local elections. That figure was even lower among young people. Just 34% of people aged 18-29 cast a ballot in 2016, compared to 89% of people aged 70 or moreOne of the reasons those votes haven’t turned up is our reliance on a postal voting system that advantages older people. They’re more likely to have sent a letter in the last two decades, and to be in the same address as they were last election. Young people are more transient. Many of them have barely seen a letter.

Thankfully, hope is on the horizon. If you’ve forgotten to update your enrolment details somewhere between your last two flat evictions, or you even just don’t know where to find a post box, don’t lose heart. Here’s a guide to how to vote even if it seems like a struggle.

Find your nearest one-stop shop

Democracy dies in darkness, but it’s alive and well at our biggest city’s night markets thanks to Auckland Council’s ‘one-stop shops’ that let you enrol and vote in the time it takes your dumplings to arrive. Along with the markets in Botany, Henderson, Glenfield, Pakuranga, Sylvia Park, and Papatoetoe, one-stop shops have been set up at campuses, marae, and community hubs across the city. A complete list of locations is here. Dunedin also has a similar, but slightly less swanky, program going on, with ‘rotating booths’ setting up across the city from September 30 to October 11. A list of their locations is here.

If you do turn up to a one-stop shop, there’s a few things to remember to do:

Bring your friends

“Vote early, vote often” is the old joke, but honestly? When you look at who does vote in Auckland, it’s not diverse and it’s not fair. The more of the rest of us who vote, the better the result. Haul your mates along and have a vote party. 

Do your research

There will be candidate booklets on hand at one-stop shops. Do some research first though if you can. You can find out who’s standing in your area via the official election website

A good rule of thumb: pick candidates who look and sound like you – especially if they sound onto it, smart, and kind, because local government is all about working together to get things done.  

Also, scorecards and other policy evaluation tools are your friend, especially if there’s an issue that’s really important to you. You can find out about the candidates’ overarching platforms at Policy Local, or how they’d address climate change via Stuff’s climate quiz. Scorecards are available from Generation Zero, Bike Auckland, and ActionStation, along with many other places nationwide.


Post a special vote

If your voting papers haven’t shown up by now, have shown up damaged, or been sent to the wrong address, don’t give up! You can still cast a special vote. 

Casting a special vote is easy. First, you need to make sure you’re enrolled, and that your address is correct by October 11. This will ensure you’re voting for the right electorate, so you have a say in who is representing your home, not someone else’s. You can check that with a quick search here. 

Once you’re enrolled, you can request special voting papers with a quick call to the Electoral Office (0800 922 822). When these arrive, all you need to do is choose your favourite candidates and then post them back. 

Cast a special vote in person

If you leave this a little late and don’t think you’ll be able to return your vote by the cutoff date (noon, October 12), you can pop in to a local council building, some libraries or other locations to cast a vote in-person. This is essentially the same as voting at a one-stop shop, but less fun, and you won’t get food at the same time. A quick Google should tell you where you can cast a special vote, but just to make things easy, here are some of the options in Aotearoa’s major centres:


Council service centres


University of Auckland, October 11

MIT Otara Campus, October 9


Elections Office, Hamilton City Council, Municipal Building, Garden Place, Hamilton


Arapaki Manners Library and Service Centre at 12 Manners Street (special vote papers can be collected here)

Any Wellington City Library (special vote papers can be dropped off, but not collected here)

Newlands Community Centre, Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm 

Linden Social Centre, Monday–Friday, 10:30am–5pm (starting from Monday 30 September)

Strathmore Park Community Centre, Monday–Friday, 9:30am–1:30pm


Akaroa Service Centre, 78 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa (9am–5pm)

Beckenham Service Centre, 66 Colombo Street, Beckenham (9am–5pm)

Christchurch City Council Civic Offices, 53 Hereford Street (9am–5pm)

Fendalton Service Centre, corner of Clyde and Jeffreys roads, Fendalton (9am–5pm)


Plaza Meeting Room, Civic Centre, Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm, and on Saturday 12 October from 8.30am until 12pm

Any of the rotating booths

Vote at work

If you’re in Auckland and you work for Spark, Stuff, the Auckland Business Chamber, the police or one of roughly 50 other organisations, you can vote at work on October 4. Otherwise …

Find where to post your ballot

This is a postal vote. So if you’ve signed up at a one-stop shop and taken your voting papers away to think about your decision, you haven’t actually voted. Even if you’ve received a ballot in the post, you need to actually return it to make your voice heard.

The most obvious place to drop-off your ballot is a post box, but finding one can be difficult in the year 2019. Thankfully some cities have put together maps of voting drop-off locations. Auckland’s is here, and Hamilton’s is here. Votes need to be in the mail by Tuesday, October 8, or in a ballot box by noon on Saturday, October 12.

If you care about climate change action, public transport, cycle paths, pedestrian-friendly streets, or the type of housing that’s being built around you, it’s worth doing. Voting is like flossing: something we should all do, pretty much the last thing you feel like doing, but you definitely smile wider once you have.

The Spinoff local election coverage is entirely funded by The Spinoff Members. For more about becoming a member and supporting The Spinoff’s journalism, click here.

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