Invercargill’s National party candidate Penny Simmonds has a 685 vote majority but is awaiting the special votes to be counted before she can celebrate entering Parliament.
National’s Invercargill candidate Penny Simmonds has one foot underneath the desk at Parliament given her 685 majority after provisional election votes were counted.
However, Simmonds isn’t celebrating just yet saying it is too close to call given the special votes are still to be counted.
After all the provisional votes from the Invercargill electorate had been counted on Saturday night, Simmonds sat 685 votes clear of the next highest polling candidate, Labour’s Liz Craig.
It might now be up to three weeks before Invercargill gets official confirmation as to just who will represent the region in Parliament during the next three years.
* Election 2020: Labour is in, but will the special votes change some things?
* Penny Simmonds not claiming victory in Invercargill seat just yet
* Labour’s Liz Craig waiting on special votes to come in
The Labour party’s Invercargill candidate Liz Craig speaks to supporters on election night.
Simmonds expected there would be about 3000 special votes still to be factored in.
“I’m not getting ahead of myself,’’ she said.
Craig also wasn’t prepared to accept defeat until those special votes were counted.
“I think there will be a significant amount of specials because a lot of people potentially would have enrolled and voted on the day, and they have to be counted,” Craig said.
Special votes are made for a host of different reasons, including if a voter had not registered to vote before election day or there had been a change of address after the cut-off date for enrolments.
Craig thinks with some tweaks to various election rules this year – including prisoners with three years left on their sentence being able to vote – could mean there will be more than the 3000 special votes cast at the 2017 election.
The electoral commission has indicated it wanted to have it all tidied up by November 6, which could mean a three-week wait if it did stretch through to that November 6 date.
From left, Penny Simmonds, Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt, young Nat Sam White, and former National MP for Invercargill Sarah Dowie at the Ascot Hotel on election night.
While we wait for confirmation as to who has claimed the Invercargill seat, what we already do know is the wave of Labour red, that stretched across most of New Zealand at this year’s election, reached Invercargill on Saturday.
National has held the Invercargill seat since the 2005 election, and at the 2017 election National’s Sarah Dowie held a close to 6000 vote majority over Craig.
That majority has been whittled down to 685, even with National putting up Simmonds, who has prominent name recognition in Invercargill given her long-time role as Southern Institute of Technology chief executive.
Simmonds acknowledged Labour leader Jacinda Ardern had been “on a roll” and that had a big impact on this year’s election.
Craig felt the work that had been done with community agencies focusing on water quality and advocating for housing were factors in a tighter race in Invercargill than the previous elections.
“It’s really good to see that result come down and narrow that margin,” Craig said.
It was a captivating night for those following the Invercargill race.
By 9.55pm, with 67.7 per cent of the provisional votes counted, the margin between Craig and Simmonds was down to just 70 votes with Craig ahead.
Five minutes later, that margin shrunk to just 13 votes, before Simmonds pulled ahead to that 685 vote margin when 100 per cent of the provisional votes were counted.
Simmonds admitted her first election night as a candidate was a tough one.
“It was pretty nerve-racking. It was pretty tough, particularly seeing the [National] party vote so low right across the country. There have been some pretty big changes across the country.’’
Interestingly, the Green’s Invercargill candidate Rochelle Francis was the third-highest polling in Invercargill picking up 900 votes.
That’s despite Francis urging her followers to party vote Green but give their electorate vote to Craig.
If those 900 votes had have gone Craig’s way as Francis hoped it might have swung the Invercargill seat the way of Craig.
While Craig is on the backfoot to claim the Invercargill electorate seat, she remains in line to return to Parliament as a list MP.