Special votes turn Palmerston North into a Labour electorate twice over

Special votes have seen Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway increase his majority in Palmerston North, and his party win the ...
DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Special votes have seen Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway increase his majority in Palmerston North, and his party win the most votes there.

Developing tactics to get people enrolling and voting before election day has helped Labour snatch the Palmerston North party vote out of National's hands.

It appeared National had won the party vote in the city on election night in September, with the party taking 41.5 per cent of the votes to Labour's 40.4 per cent.

But special votes, which were not counted until Saturday, changed the landscape, with Labour getting 41.2 per cent of all votes to National's 40.2 per cent.

National Palmerston North candidate Adrienne Pierce is keen for another crack at the city electorate in the next election.
DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

National Palmerston North candidate Adrienne Pierce is keen for another crack at the city electorate in the next election.

The specials also saw Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway increase his majority over National's Adrienne Pierce by 1073 votes to 6392.

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Lees-Galloway said he was pleased to see his majority, the biggest of the four elections he has run, increase.

Greens Palmerston North candidate Thomas Nash was happy about the swing to the left after the special votes were counted.
DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Greens Palmerston North candidate Thomas Nash was happy about the swing to the left after the special votes were counted.

"But, really, that was a very secondary concern.

"It was my ambition at this election to get Labour back into first place on the party votes in Palmerston North."

The party vote was well above the 30.88 per cent Labour got in 2014.

One of the big winners after the special votes were counted was new Green MP Golriz Ghahraman
DAVID WHITE/STUFF

One of the big winners after the special votes were counted was new Green MP Golriz Ghahraman

Lees-Galloway said the increased party vote mirrored what happened nationally, but there was still room for his team to make changes in Palmerston North.

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Labour campaigners targeted groups they thought were more likely to cast special votes, such as people working in certain industries and younger voters, he said.

Pierce said the result was a "big picture thing", with Jacinda Ardern becoming Labour's leader during the campaign focusing support towards the big two parties.

It had been a tough campaign for her, being the last National candidate to get selected and going up against an established sitting MP.

"You need that time. You need to build relationships and people have to get to know you to really support you."

Pierce, who moved with her husband to Palmerston North during the campaign, said she wants to have another crack in 2020 if the city's National Party electorate decided she was the right person.

National's past two candidates in the city, former mayor Jono Naylor and current city councillor Leonie Hapeta, both only ran in one election.

While the special votes did not see anyone in Manawatū either enter or exit Parliament, it did see Labour and the Greens pick up a seat each, both at the expense of National.

Green candidate Thomas Nash was happy about the swing to the left, especially as it saw Golriz Ghahraman​ – a human rights lawyer – become a Green MP for the first time.

He said her work in international law and human rights was "close to my heart and background", so he was glad to see someone from that sector representing in Parliament.

"I'm happy for Labour as well to get another MP to strengthen our hand in terms of negotiating for a new progressive Government that's led by Labour and the Greens."

The Greens had candidates overseas who tried to get New Zealanders outside of the country to cast special votes, Nash said.

It was easy to get caught up in politics in whatever country you were in, so having candidates overseas was a good way to mobilise the Kiwi population there, he said.

While the Greens vote across the country plummeted from 11 per cent in 2014 to 6.3 per cent this election, they only fell from 9.9 per cent to 6.1 per cent in Palmerston North.

Nash said his goal was to narrow the gap between the Green vote nationwide and in Palmerston North, and he was glad that succeeded. 

The special votes also show voter numbers increasing in the city, from 34,427 in 2014 to 35,545 this year.

 - Stuff

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