Some elections can be summed up by one word.
In 2002 it was Corngate; in 2005 it was the Brethren; in 2011 it was the Teapot-tape; in 2017 it was Stardust.
No matter who holds power after October 17, the 2020 election will always be the Covid election.
The global pandemic forced a delay on grounds of fairness to the election date which was shifted from September 19 to October 17. But its effect on New Zealand and the world goes deep and wide.
The health response in New Zealand to the virus, the lockdown and the state of the economy with the impact on people's livelihoods, ambitions and plans have all transformed the political landscape and the fortunes of respective players.
It propelled an already popular Prime Minister and her party to new heights of popularity and contributed to the demise of the former Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges.
So focused were some people on Covid they did not want an election at all.
The delay dragged out the campaign.
It was described as dull, uninspiring and even irrelevant. Dull it may have been, but irrelevant? Never, and it should never be taken for granted.
Election campaigns are irrelevant only in dictatorships, where the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
Even if the outcome looks certain, democratic campaigns can get a life of their own and have the power to effect change.
Under MMP, even small changes to a party's support can have major impacts on the shape of a Government.
It affects how much bargaining power parties have after the election.
The party that held the balance of power last election, New Zealand First, and installed Labour over National, got only 7.2 per cent of the Party vote, not much over the 5 per cent threshold.
The Green Party, which received even less, 6.3 per cent, served in Government for three years with Labour. But the Greens, along with New Zealand First, are now fighting for survival.
New Zealand is now running it second election campaign in which the two main leaders, Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins, are women. It is not commented on because it is no longer unorthodox.
This is New Zealand's ninth MMP election. MMP was voted in to avoid single party Governments although it always remains a possibility, more so in 2020 and the Covid crisis.
The presidential style of politics puts a lot of scrutiny and pressure on political leaders but policies still matter.
Politicians avoid calling them promises these days – "plans" or "priorities" are what parties put forward because any of them could be bargained away in post-election negotiations.
The mainstream media seek to objectively inform voters about what is on offer. This is the purpose of this publication.
It is a tradition of the New Zealand Herald and we trust it helps you to navigate this election and the very relevant campaign.
Need to know: Ways to cast your votes
Voting in the 2020 election started last month for the 67,000 New Zealanders enrolled overseas. For eligible voters at home, voting began on Saturday and continues until 7pm on election day, October 17.
Outside New Zealand, 88 voting places are available, most limited to issuing or receiving postal votes but voting in person is possible at 22 overseas stations. Overseas voters are being encouraged to download and print voting papers, before uploading completed documents.
Against a backdrop of Covid-19, the Electoral Commission has a number of measures it says will ensure a safe election. Contact-tracing, hand sanitisers and space for physical distancing will be features of voting places. Voters are encouraged to use their own pens.
The commission suggests voters head early to polling stations to avoid queues and maintain social distancing on election day. The location of polling stations can be found at vote.nz.
Enrolled voters should have received packs with EasyVote cards. Separate ballot boxes will be available — one for the MMP voting paper and another for the referendum paper.
Up to 5000 people in managed isolation or quarantine will be able to vote by telephone. Dictation voting is being used at New Zealand's 32 managed isolation facilities. The dictation service is also available for blind, partially blind or disabled voters.
People unable to get to a polling station can have their vote collected. Takeaway voting is also available. People working on election day must by law be allowed to leave their place of work to vote.
Seventeen registered political parties and 677 candidates will be contesting the 2020 General Election.
Preliminary election results will be released from 7pm on October 17 at www.electionresults.govt.nz.
On October 30 preliminary referendum results will be issued.
Official results will be available on November 6.
Check vote.nz, the commission's website, for more information. - Andrew Stone
Need to know: How the MMP system works
The 2020 general election marks the 9th time that New Zealanders have gone to the polls under MMP.
Yet the system which underpins New Zealand's democracy and system of government remains poorly understood.
A recent survey revealed that more than 60 per cent of senior high school students did not know how it works.
Because MMP is a proportional system, the share of votes a political party gets largely reflects their number of seats in Parliament.
1. Each voter gets two votes — a party vote and an electorate vote.
2. The party vote is for the party you want to represent you. Parties with a bigger share of the party vote will get more seats in Parliament. Only parties which secure at least 5 per cent of the party vote or one or more electorate seat get MPs.
3. Parties use lists to rank candidates and determine who gets into Parliament if the party vote exceeds the number of candidates who win electorates. So if a party wins 10 per cent of the party vote it will get 10 per cent of the total MPs in Parliament — about 12 MPs in the 120-seat House.
If it wins 2 electorates then the other 10 MPs will come from its list. If No 1 and 3 on the list win electorates, then the first list MP would be No 2 and next would be No 4.
4. The electorate vote is for the local MP you want. Voters chose whether to opt for "two ticks" — picking a local MP from the party they want — or to split their vote, and back an electorate MP from a party different from the one they want in government. - Andrew Stone