Democratic structures and processes

Key statutes

  • Electoral Act 1993
  • Broadcasting Act 1989 (Part 6)
  • Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993
  • Political Disabilities Removal Act 1960
  • Referenda (Postal Voting) Act 2000
  • Local Restoration Polls Act 1990
  • Electoral Access Fund Act 2020

Key secondary legislation

  • Court of Appeal (List Election Petitions) Rules 1998
  • Constituency Election Petition Rules 2008
  • Election Petition Rules 1996
  • Electoral (Advertisements of a Specified Kind) Regulations 2005
  • Electoral (Expenditure Limit) Order 2020
  • Electoral (Fees) Amendment Regulations 2011
  • Electoral (Iwi Organisation and Other Māori Organisation) Regulations 2018
  • Electoral Main Rolls Closing Order 2020
  • Electoral Regulations 1996
  • Citizens Initiated Referenda (Fees) Regulations 1993
  • Citizens Initiated Referenda Regulations 1995
  • Referenda (Postal Voting) Regulations 2009

Information/links to recent or currently underway reviews

Recent electoral reform

Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act 2018(external link) – This amendment introduced a mechanism to allow an MP’s seat to be declared vacant when that MP departs the political party for which he or she was elected.

Currently, the Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill(external link), a member’s bill in the name of Hon Nick Smith, is being considered by the Justice select Committee. The aim of the Bill is to reverse the changes made by the 2018 Amendment Act. Justice officials are supporting the Committee in its consideration of this Bill.

Electoral Amendment Act 2019(external link) – This amendment restricted donations from overseas persons to political parties and candidates, to reduce the risk of foreign money influencing the election process.

Electoral Amendment Act 2020(external link) – This amendment introduced election day enrolment and voting in supermarkets, and updated the emergency powers of the Electoral Act 1993.

Electoral Access Fund Act 2020(external link) – This act comes into force July 2021. The Act establishes a fund designed to remove or reduce barriers to standing as a candidate in a general election or a by-election faced by individuals as a consequence of their disability.

Waitangi Tribunal Report on Māori prisoners’ voting rights(external link) (WAI 2870) and Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2020 (external link) - the Act enfranchised people serving a sentence of imprisonment for less than 3 years and facilitated participation in the electoral system of prisoners who are to be released from prison following a sentence of over 3 years.

Enabling referendums in 2020

The Referendums Framework Act 2019(external link) –  This Act provided a single set of legislative provisions to govern the conduct of the referendums held alongside the 2020 General Election.


The Justice Committee’s report into the 2017 General Election (and 2016 Local Elections), released in December 2019, made 14 recommendations for changes to the conduct of parliamentary elections, and 21 recommendations related to the risk of foreign interference to New Zealand’s democracy.

Inquiry into the 2017 General Election and 2016 Local Elections(external link)

Government response to Justice Committee Report(external link)

Forward work

Reviews into the 2020 Election

The Electoral Commission must report to the Minister on the administration of the general election within 6 months of the election, including any changes it considers necessary or desirable to the Electoral Act 1993. This report must be tabled in Parliament.

The Justice Committee often opens an Inquiry into the previous general election, following the tabling of this report.

Other reviews

The Government Response to the Justice Committee’s elections inquiry report identified that the Electoral Act needs to be modernised and proposed a comprehensive review of electoral law to take place over the next two parliamentary terms. Decisions on scope and timing of a review are pending.

The 2020 New Zealand Labour Party and Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Cooperation Agreement(external link) notes that:

• …it is also the Government’s intention to work with political parties…on issues that affect our democracy, including the Electoral Commission’s 2012 recommendations to MMP, electoral finance law, and the length of Parliament term.