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Overseas votes could make the difference

30 October 2008

Media release
Ivan Moss, Chief Executive, Kea New Zealand

For immediate publication

Overseas votes could make the difference

The result of this year's General Election could be affected by the record numbers of overseas-based New Zealanders who are set to vote.

New analysis just published by an Oxford University researcher shows that overseas votes changed the outcome of several previous New Zealand elections.

Relatively small numbers of overseas votes have changed previous elections, according to a paper by New Zealander Alan Gamlen at Oxford. He found that:
 The overseas vote defeated prohibition in the 1919 referendum.
 In 1943, the overseas vote tipped the balance and ensured the re-election of the Fraser-led Labour Government.
 In 1993, overseas votes appeared to be "the feather that tipped the final result in National's favour" in the decisive Waitaki electorate. "This left the National Party with 50 MPs - an overall majority of one".

"On current trends, about 50% more Kiwis overseas are likely to vote this year than in 2005," says Ivan Moss, Chief Executive of Kea New Zealand, the country's most active network of Kiwis overseas.

As of yesterday [editors: Wed 29 October 2008], 56,152 overseas New Zealanders had enrolled to vote, and on previous patterns this will rise to around 60,000 by election day. If only 70% of them vote, that would make a record 42,000 overseas votes in this year's election, compared with 28,000 in 2005.

"Because overseas voting patterns tend to be different, Kiwis overseas could make a real difference in this year's election."

Analysis by Kea New Zealand reveals a number of scenarios where overseas votes could tip a cliffhanger result – either for parties or for the Government itself.

For example, this year the overseas votes might be influential enough decide whether National can govern alone, whether ACT's Roger Douglas returns to Parliament, or whether the Greens achieve the 5% threshold and get six seats in Parliament.

"It is clear that the overseas vote matters, and we encourage all Kiwis overseas to enrol via www.everyvotecounts.co.nz and then vote."

Over the past three elections, overseas voters have shown:
 a strong tendency to support the Green and ACT parties, compared with the New Zealand electorate overall
 a smaller but potentially significant tendency to support National over Labour.

"Those trends could be decisive in some situations, our analysis shows," says Ivan Moss. For example, on reasonable assumptions about the number of overseas votes in 2008:
 If New Zealand-based voters choose National by 50.48%, then National would get 60 seats in Parliament. But if National gets 53.8% of overseas voters (similar to the margin it achieved in 2005), then the overseas vote would tip a 61st seat to National, potentially enabling it to govern without a coalition partner.
 If 2.07% of domestic voters vote for ACT and the party also wins an electorate seat, that would deliver ACT two seats in Parliament. But if 3.2% of overseas voters opt for ACT (which it achieved in 2002), that would give ACT a third seat and put Hon Roger Douglas back in Parliament as number three on the ACT party list.
 If 4.95% of voters within New Zealand go for the Greens, they would miss out on seats in Parliament by being below the 5% threshold. But an 8.4% vote among overseas voters (less than the Greens achieved in 2005) would push the Greens over the threshold and give them six MPs instead of none.

Alan Gamlen's Oxford research notes a number of efforts to increase overseas voting in the current 2008 election:
 "The Greens are running four overseas candidates," he says - two in London, one in Melbourne and another roving overseas-based candidate.
 Labour's list includes "a list candidate in London".
 National has "an Internet campaign targeting expatriate voters … [and] overseas vote coordinators in most capitals around the world with a significant number of Kiwis," he reports.
 "[A] crucial factor in the increased overseas enrolments has been the Every Vote Counts (EVC) campaign launched by Kea New Zealand (the Kiwi Expats Association)," he says. "[T]he rate of increase surged when the EVC campaign was launched on 25 August ..."

A spreadsheet demonstrating these scenarios can be downloaded here.

It's not too late for Kiwis overseas to enrol to vote. They can enrol online, return their enrolment papers by fax or post, then download their voting papers as soon as their enrolment is officially registered – usually the next New Zealand working day.

But currently barely 10% of eligible overseas voters are enrolled for the New Zealand election. Kea New Zealand's research among its overseas members found that over 90% are interested in voting.

Kea New Zealand's global Every Vote Counts campaign (www.everyvotecounts.co.nz) is helping everyone to encourage eligible overseas New Zealanders to enrol and vote.

Background information

New Zealand citizens are eligible to vote from anywhere in the world if they have visited New Zealand at any time in the three years before election day. Yet in 2005, only 28,000 voted from overseas of the estimated 500,000 eligible.

Enrolling and voting from overseas is simple. Eligible voters can enrol online and download their voting papers online, and return the paperwork by fax or post. There is no need to visit an Embassy or Consulate to enrol and vote.

The website www.everyvotecounts.co.nz has all the information overseas Kiwis need to enrol and vote.

Every Vote Counts is an initiative of Kea New Zealand (www.keanewzealand.com), an independent, non-government, non-profit Incorporated Society dedicated to encouraging overseas New Zealanders to maintain and deepen their connections with home.

The Every Vote Counts campaign is strictly non-partisan, and does not advocate that overseas New Zealanders vote for any particular political party or candidate, nor hold or act on any particular political opinion. No public funds are being used to support Every Vote Counts.


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