At 19-years-old Mehara Tamaki was already regarded as a powerful leader with a passion for politics.

The young Whangarei woman died of a medical condition last Monday and her friends and whanau hope her legacy will be a change to the Electoral Act which declares the early vote Mehara cast will not be counted.

Her sister Kataraina Tamaki and cousin David Heke said Mehara always had a love for politics.

"Politics have always been a thing for our family. We all took part in the Foreshore and Seabed march back in 2004 and a lot of other hikoi we were on.

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"We were always amongst all of that stuff but Mehara had an extra passion for politics and she loved being in that space and she shined being in that space," said Kataraina.

Mehara was the second youngest of four girls and adored her "darlings" - her nieces. She wanted to be Prime Minister and planned to go university to study politics next year.

She had campaigned during the last election and had been waiting ever since to be of legal age to vote. But Mehara's vote is not being counted because of Section 178 (4) of the Electoral Act which states:

"Where a person who has voted in an election dies before the close of the day before polling day, the Returning Officer shall, on receiving from a Registrar of Births and Deaths notification of that person's death, disallow that person's vote."

Kataraina and Mr Heke said as part of her legacy - they want that law changed.

"A few of us went and voted [on Monday]- a van load of us - that voted for her," said Kataraina.

"Because of the law, they all decided their vote would go for her," Mr Heke said.

A service for Mehara was held Otangarei Marae on Saturday and she was then taken to Mokau Urupa in Whangaruru.

Mehara Tamaki passed away last Monday - her whanau want her vote to count.
Mehara Tamaki passed away last Monday - her whanau want her vote to count.

Among the people and groups calling for a law change is political party the Mana Movement - Mehara was a national executive representative of the group.

Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai, who knew Mehara through her involvement in Future Leaders and the Whangarei District Council Youth Advisory Group, is another.

Ms said Mehara was wise beyond her years, passionate about politics, and not afraid to challenge the status quo.

"I would describe her as powerful and courageous and just larger than life. Really focused, her physical presence was something but her whole spiritual presence was with her as well - you knew you were in the room with someone amazing."

Ms Mai said if nothing else, the "tragedy" has got people to discuss the Electoral Act which she said should be changed.

"In hindsight, retrospectively, once the voting period is open and someone has cast their vote than that should count regardless of whether their alive or not," she said.

Veeshayne Patuwai, the programme founder of Urutapu - a leadership programme Mehara was involved with, said voting was important to Mehara.

"She did everything she needed to do, she made the effort to vote early, so I absolutely think her vote should count," she said.

"She was one of the first of our girls to vote she was like 'who are you voting for, have you read the policies, do you know what they stand for?'.'"

Mehara was also part of youth mentoring programme Future Leaders.

Peter Boyd, Whangarei capability coach for the programme, said Mehara had a strong personality with clear opinions.

"We helped each other with different perspectives on different issues. She was a strong personality and got along with a lot of people."

A petition has been started calling for a change to the Electoral Act. Visit www.change.org/p/electoral-commission-new-zealand-make-mehara-s-vote-count.