They don't call them special votes for nothing

10 buzzy bits of trivia about the final election results

We knew Labour would be the government before the specials came in, but what’s changed in the final result? Alex Braae picks out some fun details. 


Read more: The special votes are in and it’s bad news for the cannabis referendum, and National


1) Chris Hipkins loses title of the largest electorate majority

Education and Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins came out of the preliminary results with a rare honour – the largest individual electorate majority in the country. However, the MP for Remutaka has lost that title on the specials with Hipkins’ 20,497 vote majority dwarfed by the 21,246 vote lead enjoyed by the MP for Mt Albert, also known as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. It’ll probably make caucus meetings less awkward at least.

2) Legalise Cannabis sees huge surge

Even though the gap closed on the special votes, the reeferendum didn’t quite manage to tilt over to “yes”. But for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, its 0.3% share has been boosted to a much heartier 0.5% in the final results. This leaves the party in 10th place on the overall party vote ranking.

3) Labour wins the party vote in every electorate except one

Before the specials came in, National was beating Labour’s party vote in just four North Island electorates and none in the South Island. Now, the Nats lead the party vote in just one tiny pocket of the country – the Auckland electorate of Epsom, won by ACT leader David Seymour. Even there, the margin was only 590 party votes between Labour and National.

4) The ‘wasted vote’ is up to 7.9%

Of the total vote, 7.9% was cast for one of the dozen registered parties who failed to get into parliament, which is an unusually high percentage. This was headlined by NZ First, who got 2.6% but didn’t win any seats.

5) Two minor parties swap places as the best of the rest

Before the specials came in, the New Conservatives were just clinging on to 6th place in the party vote rankings. But a surge for The Opportunities Party means it’s taken over on the final numbers. Both parties finished with 1.5% overall, with about 800 votes between them.

New Conservative deputy leader Elliot Ikilei, left, and outgoing TOP leader Geoff Simmons (Photos: Supplied)

6) Māori Party continues its run of not having just one MP

Ever since the 2005 election, the Māori Party has never had a parliamentary caucus of one. Of course, between the 2017 and 2020 elections, the Māori Party had no MPs at all. But it does still mark it out as distinct from United Future, Act, and Jim Anderton’s Progressives which all had stretches of the MMP era as one-man bands. For the Māori Party in 2020, the special votes confirmed that Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi would be joined by co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer , coming in off the list.

7) Labour cracks 50% in more than fifty years

It only did it by a whisker – 50.1% – but Labour became the first party in decades to secure exactly half the total vote or more. The last time any party did that well was National in 1951 in which the party got 54% under the first past the post system.

8) Northland finally turns red

Along with the party vote swing, a whole lot of electorates went to Labour too. A case in point is Northland. It’s only existed as an electorate since the 90s, previously being part of the now abolished Hobson, Bay of Islands and Far North electorates. But even taking all of those electorates into account, the area has not had a Labour representative since the 1938 election. Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime has now won the seat from National’s Matt King by just 163 votes – King has announced that he wants a recount.

9) Wellington loves weed

Unfortunately, the way referendum votes were collected means that ordinary votes can’t be broken down between general and Māori electorates – they all went into the same box together. However, the special votes were different, and we can see from the data that Wellington Central special voters cast the highest individual tally of votes in favour of legalisation, with 7,779. The new electorate of Takanini cast the highest number of votes against, with 5,225, but again, the count is somewhat misleading because overall special votes favoured legalisation.

10) Maureen Pugh finally survives a special vote count

The wild ride of West Coast-based MP Maureen Pugh continues, with luck finally going her way on the special votes. Pugh came in last on the National list in 2014, before losing that spot on the specials. Then she got into parliament when Tim Groser resigned in 2015. Then she got in on the list again in 2017 on preliminary results, before losing that spot again on the specials. Then Bill English resigned and she got back in. You can probably guess where this is going: in 2020 Pugh was right on the bubble to get dumped on specials again. But ironically, this time she was saved by National crashing to three more electorate seat losses, meaning there was still a final precious list spot vacant for her.




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