Just over 77 per cent of voters took to the ballot boxes this weekend - a small increase in turnout from the last election.

More than 2.4 million people voted in this year's election, representing a 77.04 per cent turnout, preliminary figures from the Electoral Commission show. This includes special votes, which make up 12.2 per cent of the total votes cast.

This year's turnout is up from the 2011 election, when turnout of enrolled voters was an historically low 74.21 per cent.

It was a "decent improvement", political scientist Bryce Edwards said, but with 2011 being the lowest turnout in 100 years it "could only go up from there".

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"It would be astonishing if the turnout hadn't gone up," he said. "This has been the most colourful, engaging and loud campaign that we've seen in living memory.

"Unlike the last two election campaigns of 2008 and 2011, this was far from boring and bland, it seemed that it was highly competitive and gripping."

However, he said politicians shouldn't get complacent, saying it was a "remarkably low turn-out" even if it had increased from last time

"It still should trouble New Zealand's democracy that less than four-fifths of voters are bothering to turn out," the University of Otago lecturer said.

"It shouldn't really give politicians and the political parties a sense that the problems of New Zealand elections and connecting with people, particularly youth, are now over just because there's been a turn around in the steep decline."

Mr Edwards cited two factors which influenced people to get out and vote.

"When the public feels that it's a competitive election and therefore not a foregone conclusion, that their vote might make a difference, and secondly when they feel that there's a meaningful difference between the voting options so it does matter if the government changes, that there would be a significant improvement or worsening of the situation if the government changed," he said.

"So in this election campaign both of those factors were there to some degree."

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Mr Edwards said the advanced voting options had also helped to increase the turnout this year, with 717,000 advance votes cast -- nearly a third of all those who voted, and double the advance votes in 2011.

The Electoral Commission said turnout rates by electorate were not yet available.

The commission would start its 'official results' process today, recounting all of last night's votes as well as the special votes. It is expected to take two weeks, with the official results published on October 4.