The nation’s politicians might still be in the thick of election campaigning but New Zealanders will soon begin having their say on who they want to govern after October 14. 

Overseas voting begins this Wednesday, meaning New Zealand citizens and permanent residents currently living elsewhere can download and submit their voting papers.  

Voting from overseas does mean jumping through a couple of extra hoops, however, so here’s what you need to do. 

First things first – you need to be enrolled 

Just like voting within Aotearoa, you need to be enrolled before you can vote overseas.  

At last official count, there were nearly 65,000 people enrolled to vote overseas. Most of the overseas votes came from Australia and the UK at the 2020 election. 

You need to enrol in the New Zealand electorate that you last lived in for one month or more. 

If you’re enrolling to vote for the first time and are of Māori descent, you need to decide if you want to go on the general roll or Māori roll.  

You can enrol or update your details online, using either your New Zealand passport, New Zealand driver licence or RealMe identity.  

You need to be enrolled by midnight on Friday, October 13 (NZ time) in order to vote in this year’s election.  

The eligibility criteria for who can vote from overseas has also been adjusted for 2023. 

Usually, citizens need to have been in New Zealand within the last three years and permanent residents need to have been in the country within the last 12 months in order to vote, but those requirements have been extended to six years and four years respectively, due to previous Covid-related travel restrictions. 

Those eligibility rules will revert back to their usual timelines following the 2023 election. 

The voting process 

It is possible to vote in person at an overseas voting place if there is one in your area

You can also request to have your voting papers posted to you.  

But the Electoral Commission says the best way to vote overseas is to download voting papers, complete them, and then upload them.  

You can download your voting papers from September 27.  

You will need to confirm your eligibility to vote from overseas, say which country you’re downloading your voting papers from, and confirm you’re enrolled by entering your name, date of birth, and the New Zealand address you’re enrolled at.  

The documents you download will include instructions, a ballot paper and a statutory declaration form.  

You can choose to print your voting papers and fill them out by hand, but you can also mark the voting paper digitally.  

You and your witness can then sign the special vote declaration by using either an electronic device or inserting a digital signature. The digital signature can’t just be typed out.  

The person who witnesses your special vote declaration form can be:

  • A relative, member of your household, work colleague or associate 
  • A registered New Zealand elector 
  • A person approved by the Returning Officer 
  • A Commonwealth Representative 
  • A person authorised to take a statutory declaration in New Zealand 
  • A Commissioner of Oaths 
  • A Notary Public  
  • A person authorised to administer an oath for the purpose of a judicial proceeding in the country you’re voting from.

You can then scan or take a photo of your voting papers and upload them through the website.  

If you’re taking photos of your voting papers, make sure there is only one form per image. You also need to make sure the declaration number is visible at the top of each form.  

You have until 7pm (NZ time) on Saturday, October 14 to upload your completed ballot paper and declaration form – and you can only upload your own documents.  

Common mistakes made while voting overseas 

If you’ve gone through all the effort of downloading and filling out your voting papers, you want to make sure your vote counts at the end. 

So here are some common mistakes to avoid so your vote isn’t disallowed: 

  • Not being enrolled to vote. You can’t download your voting papers until your enrolment is processed, so it’s best to do this as early as possible.  
  • Not having the special vote declaration filled out completely and signed by both you and your witness. 
  • Submitting voting papers more than once. 
  • Not ensuring images or scans of your voting documents are clear enough to read and show each whole page.  
  • Not submitting your vote on time. Any votes received after 7pm on Election Day won’t count. 

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