< July 2023 newsletter

Big changes proposed to our electoral system

Over the past year, the government-appointed Electoral Review Panel has been looking at our general election laws and procedures “to find out what is working well and what could change”. The Panel has formed an initial view and would like to hear what we think before finalising their report for the Minister of Justice. 

We have until July 17 to have our say.

The panel has made 98 recommendations, such as holding a referendum on extending the parliamentary term from three to four years, capping donations at $30,000 per party per electoral cycle, and lowering the 5 per cent threshold to 3.5 per cent while abolishing the one-seat threshold.

It also recommended lowering the voting age to 16 and extending voting rights to all prisoners.

Here is a sample of recommendations made by the Electoral Review Panel you may like to consider commenting on:

R3. Adding to the currently entrenched provisions by entrenching:

  1. the Māori electorates (to the same extent that the general electorates are already entrenched)
  2. the method for the allocation of seats in parliament and the party vote threshold
  3. the right to vote and to stand as a candidate
  4. the process for removing members of the Electoral Commission.

 R4. Requiring decision-makers to give effect to te Tiriti o Waitangi / the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles when exercising functions and powers under the Electoral Act. This obligation should apply generally across the Act and be explicitly included in the Electoral Commission’s statutory objectives.

R5. The Electoral Commission prioritises establishing Māori governance over data collected about Māori in the administration of the electoral system.

R6. Lowering the party vote threshold for list seat eligibility from five per cent of the nationwide party vote to 3.5 per cent.

R10. We recommend abolishing the one-electorate seat threshold. Currently, a party that wins an electorate is entitled to its share of list seats as well, even if it did not meet the party vote threshold. We have concluded that this gives voters in some electorates more say than voters in other electorates about which parties get represented in parliament.

R17. Some submitters argued that by-elections are an expensive and unnecessary exercise. However, in our view they continue to fill an important democratic function by providing local representation and should be retained.

R37. Voter participation is central to a healthy democracy. People are more likely to vote if they understand why voting is important in a democratic system. The Electoral Commission plays a crucial role in improving voter participation and we support its continued work in this area. We also recommend developing a funding model to support community-led initiatives for civics and citizenship education. Local people and groups are best placed to make the connections to reach communities, but they are not resourced to do so. The fund should be administered outside the Electoral Commission.

R54. The changes we recommend to private funding aim to increase transparency and incentivise parties to seek larger numbers of small donations. These changes are likely to affect the amount received privately. We recommend a mix of direct and indirect state funding to compensate. Per-vote funding should be introduced on a sliding scale. Although this can favour parties already in parliament, other measures we recommend will offset this effect.

R72. The boundary review process, conducted by the Representation Commission, determines how the country is divided into electorates. We recommend Stats NZ is given flexibility on the data sources they use to calculate electoral populations, such as using the estimated resident population, instead of being required to rely on census data. We also recommend increasing how much an electorate’s population size can depart from the average size (known as the population quota tolerance) from plus or minus five per cent to plus or minus 10 per cent.

 R96. We recommend extending the timeframe for the offence of knowingly publishing false information to influence votes during the voting period, so that it covers the time for advance voting as well as election day.

 Chapter 5: Parliamentary Term and Election Timing

Referendum on extending the term of parliament. (p.65 Interim Report)

Obviously, there are many other recommendations made by the panel you may like to comment on. To see the full list of the draft recommendations see the Interim Report, or the Executive Summary at:


We have until July 17 to have our say.

We have the option of filling in a survey by using the online consultation tool. The survey is structured around six themes as set out in the Key Themes document.  You can answer as many or as few questions as you like.

Or you can fill out the offline consultation form, which has the same questions as our online survey, and send this to us by email or by post.

Another option is to upload your own written submission, or send it by post to:
Independent Electoral Review
Free Post 113
PO Box 180

Note that submissions must be received by 17 July.

If you have any trouble submitting your response, please contact the Panel at [email protected]

Media coverage

RNZ: Electoral system review recommends voting age lowered to 16, party threshold to 3.5%

1 NEWS: Winston Peters: Recommended electoral changes 'disastrous'

E-TANGATA: Maria Bargh: Changing the system one step at a time

THE PLATFORM NZ: Can this bureaucrat explain what the Treaty of Waitangi has to do with electoral reform? Sean Plunket talks to Independent Electoral Review Chair Deborah Hart.

Go back to the July 2023 newsletter



The Electoral Review panel has released its interim report with draft recommendations on proposed changes to our parliamentary electoral system. Continue reading

Proposed changes to our electoral system

The Ministry of Justice is currently reviewing our electoral law. The government-appointed Independent Electoral Review panel is inviting feedback on the future of our electoral system. Continue reading