Advanced voting in New Zealand ahead of the Sept. 20 election begins today with Labour party leader David Cunliffe and Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom among the first ones to exercise their right to suffrage.
According to reports, the rules have changed in advance voting as New Zealanders can vote beginning Sept. 3 up to Sept. 20. Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden said about 300 voting booths have been set up across New Zealand in time for the advanced voting process.
The New Zealand Herald reports that voting places will be different than the ones on the actual election date. Some will also not be open at certain days of the week. New Zealanders are encouraged to call the Electoral Commission or visit its website to know what designated areas are open.
Advanced voting for elections before 2011 required voters to state their reasons, but this time the rules were changed to accommodate the public. According to election data, 334,558 or 14.7 percent of total votes in the last election came from advanced voting.
The electoral commission has also announced the opening of special votes on Sept. 4 for New Zealanders who wish to vote but outside their electorate.
Cunliffe has encouraged people to vote early to avoid the throng of voters who might be queuing on election day. The Labour leader will be joining the special vote in Christchurch. He called on New Zealanders to vote and do their part in "bringing a positive future to New Zealand."
Reports said Prime Minister John Key, who is seeking a third term, will be casting his vote on election day.
Aside from Cunliffe, the Human Rights Commission and the Internet-Mana Party urged the people to vote early. Dotcom will be voting in advance in Auckland where he is expected to launch a campaign to motivate people to vote.
Although not a New Zealand citizen, Dotcom can still vote as a resident. The Internet party founder will be promoting the Internet-Mana party's Mobilize campaign to get people to commit to voting. Those who will participate in the campaign will be given a unique pledge code via SMS which can also be shared in social media. Dotcom wants to attract younger Kiwis to get out and vote.