Hawke's Bay's homeless community are not just falling on hard times, they're falling into a "black hole" of democracy, a law expert says.
While there are no legal barriers stopping those without a fixed abode in the region from voting, the practicalities mean many will have given up trying, Victoria University's Dean Knight says.
Knight, Associate Professor Faculty of Law and New Zealand Centre for Public Law, said New Zealand was generally egalitarian and had a philosophy of making voting easily accessible.
"Elections are for the people and that includes people who are without fixed abode, homeless or transient.
"It's [a question] of practicality and how that can be delivered."
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said people in temporary accommodation or those with no fixed address can enrol and vote in local and parliamentary elections.
They can enrol at the address where they spend a substantial part of their time, or at the last residential address where they lived for at least one month, even if that was some time ago.
People are also required to provide a postal address when they enrol to vote, so electoral mail like EasyVote packs can be sent.
This can be a PO Box, or the address of a friend, family member, church or support group, but it needs to be someone who agrees to hold onto the mail.
"The law is framed in a way that allows them to do that," Knight agreed, but added it was "tricky" and "prone to go awry".
"Legally they can, practically they can't."
He said these types of barriers resulted in some people saying "I can't be bothered", creating a "blind spot" for those who were homeless.
"There's a practical black hole facing these people.
"It requires a lot of energy and effort to try and overcome that."
These are people who had needed help with other aspects of their life, like healthcare, meaning political representation was especially important.
Local body elections and policies often had the most influence with local bylaws creating rules about where people can live.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council Electoral Officer Leeanne Hooper said to qualify to vote in the recent Hastings by-election a person had to be registered at an address in the Hastings Constituency for at least one month.
"We believe this would rule out anyone of no fixed abode.
"In order to vote people must be 'registered' to do so."
Asked what efforts are undertaken to engage people with no fixed abode in the voting process, she said campaigns were run through social media, printed media and the Electoral Commission – nationally and regionally.
"Campaigns are as broad as possible to reach as many potential voters as possible – with targetted campaigns for groups such as youth – encouraging people to Stand, Enrol, and Vote.
"We are not aware of any campaigns targetting those of no fixed abode."
Knight said it was for people who care about these people to advocate for them.
The Electoral Commission spokesperson said enrolment information was passed on to people it comes into contact with no fixed address, and to community groups and social providers in Hawke's Bay who work with people who are homeless.
She said local social services providers had arrangements in place to hold mail for people with no fixed address and family members also often agreed to do so.