Call me old-fashioned, but I rather miss the formality and the drama of an actual election day. There's the flurry of final public meetings and last-minute bribes and abuse, then the special Saturday would dawn.

Overnight all the billboards would disappear and the streets would blossom with party workers cruising about in their freshly polished cars, offering free rides to the polls.

Party workers and politicians were gagged from saying anything political. Party ribbons on their car aerials and big rosettes on their chests were all they could get away with.

Candidates were restricted to brief appearances at the polling booth, fixed smiles across their faces, before rushing home to sweat it out. It was the one day every three years in which the fiction that the people ruled held sway.


Now, in a rather desperate attempt to stem the rise of non-voting, election day has been stretched over two weeks. Politicians are left to make more and more outrageous promises over that time to a steadily decreasing pool of potential voters.

In 2008, 270,427 voters got in early. By the 2014 election, the numbers had blown out to 717,579 or nearly 30 per cent of those who voted.

On Monday I took the plunge. I blame Winston and his latest bottom line. I persuaded myself if I voted early I wouldn't have to listen to any more of the old misanthrope's grandstanding.

As Act's David Seymour quipped in one of the finer asides of the campaign, this election the NZ First leader has unveiled more bottom lines than a 100-year-old elephant.

Monday's was to refuse to join a Labour-led coalition unless Labour revealed the conclusions of the tax working group it planned to set up if it got into government. An impossibility, one would have thought.

Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Illustration / Peter Bromhead

As is his way, Peters also had a swipe at the media, saying "you are not asking the questions" and adding that "one needs to know what we are talking about".

This was a bit rich coming from the pensioner who had thrown a proper tantrum when journalists quizzed him on how he managed to claim the single person's pension for seven years when, as someone living with a partner, he should have been claiming a lesser amount.

Peters refused to release his pension file, or reveal how the $18,000 he reportedly had to repay to the Ministry of Social Development broke down into overpayments and penalties. He had nothing to say about whether he received the annual letters from MSD that give pensioners the "opportunity to make sure your details are correct".


Instead of coming clean on what "one needs to know", Peters turned his embarrassment into a witch-hunt against whoever leaked the story.

Unfortunately, I have to report that voting early hasn't made Winston, or the election campaign, go away. It's just left me with that "bought the lottery ticket, why don't they get on and draw it" feeling.

The Electoral Commission's hope is that providing early voting facilities will reverse the fall-off in voting in recent years. It has dropped from the record 93.7 per cent turnout for the 1984 snap election that dumped Rob Muldoon down to 77.9 per in 2014.

The commission can point to the nearly 4 per cent increase in turnout between 2011 and 2014 as a sign of its early voting campaign's success, except that in the previous election, turnout was down 5 per cent, and in 2008, the first year of the experiment, it was also down slightly.

This year, with Jacindamania, another factor enters the equation.

But if turnout doesn't buck up this time round, there is another option. Late voting. Why not reverse the current experiment and have a week of voting after the election day result has been declared?

It could be a week when the party workers could round up the lazy and the forgetful and encourage them to the booths to enrol and vote. We could have daily updates on the vote.

What a cliff-hanging week of excitement and drama that would be.