New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, whose party will decide the eventual composition of the next government, met National leader Bill English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern yesterday.
The results of advance votes were released by the Electoral Commission on Saturday afternoon; National lost two seats (list MPs Nicola Willis and Maureen Pugh) and Labour and the Green Party picked up one apiece.
Those changes from election-night figures left an arrangement between National and New Zealand First as the governing option with the most secure majority, but also meant an arrangement between Labour, the Green Party and New Zealand First was more feasible in a 120-seat House of Representatives.National’s share of the overall vote slipped to 44.4%, but the party retained the highest number of MPs, with 56.
Labour did 7% better on special votes than it did on votes cast on election day, which raised its percentage of votes to 36.9% and 46 MPs, bringing Annie Warren-Clark into Parliament.
The Green Party has historically done well in advance votes and did so again: it secured an 8.4% share of special votes and increased its overall party vote share to 6.3%, adding Golriz Gharaman to its now eight-strong caucus.
New Zealand First retained its election-night allocation of nine MPs and still holds the balance of power. The increase in voter turnout (to 79.8% — the highest since 2005) was encouraging, and suggested Electoral Commission initiatives may have worked, University of Otago electoral law lecturer Andrew Geddis said.
"The increase probably could have been predicted because the election was looking so much closer than certainly last time and also 2011: the theory is that the closer an election is looking, the more likely it is that people will vote."
Also of note was the volume of advance votes — 446,287, or 17% of the total vote.
While the effectiveness of caretaker conventions covering governing of the country for the period between an election and a final result meant the delay in counting advance votes was not an issue, the continuing trend of more New Zealanders voting early did raise the question of whether the process for counting advance votes needed to change, Prof Geddis said.
"What causes the greatest delay is that there has to be a 10-day waiting period for the specials to come in, because traditionally they had to be posted in from around the country and from overseas.
"One question which I think could be quite legitimately asked by the next Parliament is whether 10 days is an appropriate period given the advance of technologies and so on . . . but in terms of shortening the period I would want some very good information from the Electoral Commission as to how that would impact on things like scrutinising the rolls and doing the proper checks on specials to make sure people are correctly enrolled; things like that.
"It would be foolish to risk the integrity of our vote count in order to simply speed the process up."
Advance votes had little impact on southern electorates, as all MPs who were successful on election night had secured clear majorities.
A highlight of the final results for Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran was the party vote figure of 19,183: the only electorate with a higher number of Labour party votes was Mangere, with 19,931.
"Both Dunedin candidates got nearly 43,000 votes between us, and the turnout for Dunedin South . . . I can’t see a higher turnout going back through the Electoral Commission website," Ms Curran said.
"I think what that tells you is a really strong message to the National Party that Dunedin is not happy with the National Government and feels neglected . . . I feel it’s a strong vote of confidence for the two Labour MPs who represent the city."
National list MP Michael Woodhouse — the party’s Dunedin North candidate — was upbeat about how his party fared across the city.
"Both Dunedin North and Dunedin South party votes for National are down by a smidgeon over 900 on 2014, and in the wake of Labour’s resurgence . . . and the effects of issues around Dunedin Hospital, I think losing just 900 in each electorate is a very good result.
"It remains comfortably the second-highest result [for National, in Dunedin] in any MMP election apart from 2014, so I’m really pleased with that."