Turnout abysmal for this year's vote

02:02, Nov 27 2011

Voter turnout fell to its lowest point since 2002 in the general election, with over a quarter of voters keeping away from the polls.

Preliminary numbers released by the Electoral Commission estimated a turnout of 73.83 per cent at the polling booths, a decrease of more than five per cent on polling numbers in 2008.

The preliminary results are based on the 2,014,334 votes counted on election night.

Auckland University political studies associate professor Raymond Miller said elections that were seen to be foregone conclusions could potentially lead to lower voter turnouts.

The strong showing of National in pre-election polls could have reinforced peoples' views that little would change on polling night.

''This election was not perceived to be a close race.

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''Labour voters in particular might well have thought that there was little chance of electing a Labour-led government so why bother? National voters then think that John Key is so far ahead that their vote is not needed to get him across the line.''

Despite voter turnout in 2005 and 2008 both hovering around the 80 per cent mark, the sudden drop this year was not the worst in recent history, with just 72.5 per cent of registered voters ticking the box in 2002.

That low turnout returned Helen Clark's Labour party to a second term in Government, following a snap election in July.

The short election campaign this year and in 2002 could show that voters need more time to get to know their voting options, Dr Miller said.

''The shortness of the campaign probably did have an effect on people.

''There was something of a hangover after the Rugby World Cup and the campaign didn't really get going in terms of voter interest for a wee while.''

An official election result is not expected until December 10, with special votes yet to be counted.

More than 240,000 votes - 10.7 per cent of total votes - were entered as special votes. This included an estimated 19,527 overseas votes.

The Dominion Post