In November 1893, New Zealand led the world when its women flocked to the polls. Governor Lord Glasgow had signed the Electoral Bill on 19 September 1893, making New Zealand the first self-governing country in the world where all adult women “had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.”
As in the U.S., in New Zealand non-White men were able to vote before women.
Women’s suffrage was not a movement confined to the United States. Women in Britain and her colonies as well as women in northern Europe were also advocating for “equal political rights for women” in the late 19th century. (How did this movement arise at the same globally?)
Although women in New Zealand could vote in 1893, they could not be elected to Parliament until 1919. (That’s still earlier than American women could vote.)
The first female Member of Parliament in New Zealand (Elizabeth McCombs) was elected in 1933, 40 years after obtaining the right to vote. “The number of female MPs did not reach double figures until the mid-1980s and women are still under-represented in Parliament,” according to New Zealand suffrage history.
In New Zealand, the method of election until 1996 was called “first past the post.” In this plurality system, the candidate with the most votes won, even if that candidate did not obtain a majority vote.
Voters wanted a change in the system and endorsed mixed member proportional voting (MMP) in 1996. In this system, each eligible voter has two votes to cast in parliamentary elections, a party vote and electorate vote. The party vote determines how many seats a party will hold in Parliament. The electorate vote is cast for the candidate the voter wants to represent her in Parliament.
Political parties must get at least 5% of the party vote or win an electorate seat before they can have any seats in Parliament.
Every candidate who wins an electorate gets a seat in Parliament. They are called electorate MPs.
The remaining seats are filled from party lists. Every party has a party list, which is a list of candidates ranked in the order the party wants those candidates to be elected to Parliament. Candidates elected from a party list are called list MPs.
New Zealand has both early voting and day-of-election voting.
All votes are counted by hand in New Zealand. They do not use voting machines.
Ballots cast via early voting are counted on election day, beginning at 9 a.m. Polls close at 7 p.m., and ordinary votes cast on election day are then counted. The population of New Zealand is about 5.1 million.
The Election Management System software that accepts and tallies vote totals per electorate was developed by a New Zealand company, Catalyst.
Since 2017, the prime minister of New Zealand has been a woman, Jacinda Ardern. The United States has not had a woman serve as president. (Five of the 10 most populous countries have not had a women leader.) The first woman to serve as Vice President is Kamala Harris.
In 2020, Internet memes circulating on sites like Facebook had falsely claimed that Dominion Systems voting equipment had been used to elect Ardern.