Campervans collect early votes in Christchurch

MAKING SURE: Kathleen and John Lawler, from Rakaia, vote  in the  mobile booth at City Mall yesterday.
MAKING SURE: Kathleen and John Lawler, from Rakaia, vote in the mobile booth at City Mall yesterday.

Voters in quake-hit Christchurch electorates are being urged to cast their ballots early if they have any doubts about getting to a polling booth on election day.

The Electoral Commission has 19 advance voting units in Christchurch, including three campervans which are travelling around the earthquake-damaged central and eastern suburbs.

One of the vans was in City Mall yesterday where Rakaia residents John and Kathleen Lawler cast their votes.

John Lawler said they were in the city for the day visiting the recently reopened Ballantynes when they came across the mobile booth.

The couple were taking a tour group to the Chatham Islands during election weekend, and although the island would had voting facilities, they decided it was safer to make advance votes.

It was the first time that he had voted in a campervan, but it was "very straightforward", John Lawler said.

Chief electoral officer Robert Peden said it was the first time that the mobile voting facilities had been used in a city.

He urged voters to take advantage of the advance polling places if they thought they might not be able to get to a booth on November 26.

The commission was conscious that events such as Christmas in the Park in Christchurch on election day and Elton John's concert in Dunedin the night before could affect people's plans.

"People in Christchurch also need to plan ahead because the place where they voted in 2008 may not be available this time," he said.

The commission has 250 polling places in Christchurch for the November 26 election, down from 270 in 2008.

Christchurch central has 33 polling places this year, down from 45 in 2008.

"Returning officers had to work hard and use community networks to find polling places, particularly in Christchurch east, central and the Port Hills," he said.

About 4000 people had cast ballots in Christchurch since advance voting opened on November 9, which was on a par with 2008. A surge in advance voting was expected in the last three days before election day.

Easy vote packs were being mailed out from yesterday. They include information about candidates, polling places and the MMP referendum.

The Press