Regarding when we should know a result. It depends on how close it is. If it’s close then the Special votes will be crucial (the Greens have been known to pick up an extra MP from the Specials for instance). Advance votes where the person enrolled at the same time are classed as Special votes and we won’t have them counted tonight. Special vote results and final election results will be released on October 7.
Counting of normal Advanced votes started during Saturday and it’s expected there will be some results available pretty soon after 7pm. It’s possible these will give an indication for how the election will go (and this has been true in past elections), but I think given this has been the volatile election it might not be that straightforward. The Spinoff looks at the election night issues,
So, the point is: a lot of advanced voting. That was anticipated and planned for; indeed, the rules were changed to allow those votes to be counted from Saturday morning. We’ll be getting results, a lot of them, being progressively plugged into the system from electorates around the country from just after 7pm. There’s every chance that within minutes we’ll know enough to start drawing conclusions. Last time around it took an hour or so until there was anything to get your teeth into. The Electoral Commission says all advanced votes should be revealed by 8.30pm (with 50% of on-the-day voting places by 10pm and the rest by 11:30pm), but the bulk of those early votes could be a whole lot sooner. And with such a huge proportion coming this way, it could be all over, very soon.
The Spinoff also has an overview of what to look out for re electorates, that included this generality about what is needed to win the election,
If the Greens and NZ First both get 5% or more on the night, National and Labour will be looking to control around 47% or more of the vote on the night, in order to form a government. If either the Greens or NZ First fails to make the 5% threshold, that golden victory target will drop to about 45%. If they both fail to make it back into parliament, it will be somewhere in the low 40s. See here for more on how to count the votes and here on what will be happening on the night.
There’s been some discussion about which of the larger parties will get a crack at forming government. No, the largest party doesn’t have first dibs. Dr Dean Knight, a senior Law lecturer at Victoria University, writes at The Newsroom about how governments are formed post-election. It looks at the importance of Confidence and Supply,
A series of carefully worded constitutional speeches by successive Governors-General, subsequently reflected in the Cabinet Manual, has clarified the relevant principles and processes. The basic rule is a simple one. The prime minister and their government must command the confidence of the House. As one Governor-General explained it, “the Governor-General will always appoint as Prime Minister the person who has been identified through the government formation process as the person who will lead the party or group of parties that appears able to command the confidence of the House of Representatives”.
Confidence is the lifeblood of a government. It is its mandate to govern, expressed by the MPs in the House on our behalf. In practical terms, it means having a majority of votes on certain important votes in Parliament. These votes include express motions of confidence or no confidence (such a motion is usually moved in the Address-in-Reply debate – the first debate of each new Parliament) and votes on the Budget and other money bills (without parliamentary approval to spend money, the government can’t function).
The government must survive these key votes, otherwise it loses its mandate. Thus, in order to be appointed Prime Minister, Bill English or Jacinda Ardern must get at least 61 of the 120 MPs elected to the House willing to express confidence in their proposed government. Slightly more might be required if there is an overhang (that is, if a party wins more electorate seats than the number of seats in the House it would be entitled to based on its party vote) where the size of Parliament is more than 120 MPs. Slightly fewer might be required if a party agrees to abstain on matters of confidence. This target – a majority in the House on matters of confidence – has been explained by Governors-General as the quantity dimension.
It also explains clarity,
The other dimension is clarity. Convention dictates that party leaders provide clear, public statements on their intentions on matters of confidence following the completion of negotiations.
What I take from that is there are conventions in how this is done, but there are also a range of options depending on what gets negotiated which in turn depend on numbers. If we don’t have a distinct result tonight, I’m hoping in the days to come we will get some good lay-person explanations of how this works, because I seem to remember previous elections it’s been anything but clear.
The only other thing I’m really noting right now is the number of people I’m seeing expressing quite serious election stress. I’ve called this election the most important of my lifetime (I first voted in 1984) and it’s also at times seemed like a do or die one. If we don’t get a change of government the implications are incredibly serious, but I also think that will be opportunity there to organise in ways we haven’t seen for a long time. On the other hand, it we do get a change of government, we should also be organising to keep our new government honest. Mostly right now I’m thinking it doesn’t have to be this stressful, so at some point we might want to look at why it has been and rethink how we want to politics in this country.