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Friday, 28 November 2014 10:33 pm

Wellington polling booths spring up in garages, grand spaces

Nov 26th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

FIRST VOTE: Amelia Gilbert-Milne assisting as an electoral officer in the Hataitai garage booth.

By Jennifer Gilbert.

ALONG with the traditional churches and school halls, an eclectic mix of venues was set up for voting in Wellington today and people were arriving even as the doors opened at 9am.
 
Perched on the waterfront, the Oriental Bay Rotunda is a landmark to many Wellingtonians.
 
The distinctive round building looks out over the harbour. Inside the lower level of the rotunda, everything from art classes to council meetings have been held.

Today the view was of sun shining on kayakers, and the harbour fountain sending mist across the water towards the shore – and voters.
 
A line of officials identified and ticked off the steady stream of them coming through the round room.
 
Some came with walkers, some with babies in strollers, and some had forgotten their easy-vote cards.
 
Up in the hills above the rotunda, a smaller and more intimate polling space was also busy.
 
A Hataitai resident has been running a polling booth out of her garage since 1993, and says it has become something of a landmark in its own right.
 
Like many electoral officers, she prefers to remain anonymous, but was happy to share some thoughts on the benefits of having a smaller booth run for neighbours by a local resident. 
“They feel real ownership of it. When my husband was doing up the garage a few months ago, people were dropping by and saying he’d better have it ready in time for the election,” she says.
 
The garage had been used as a polling booth briefly by some previous owners, but at some stage a caravan was placed near the site instead.
 
The caravan was not a success as a booth, as it had to be wired up to an electricity supply and was very cold on occasions when the elections were held earlier in the year.
 
“So one day somebody just knocked on my door and asked if they could use it (the garage) again. We’ve run a booth for every election since.”
 
Amelia Gilbert-Milne is assisting as an electoral officer in the garage for the second time.
 
She first qualified as an electoral officer for the election of 2008 – when she was just 16 years old and too young to vote herself.
 
This year she will be voting on both the government and the referendum, making it an interesting year to be a first-time voter.

More than 330,000 people cast their vote before the country’s 2600 polling booths opened today.

Radio New Zealand reported the Electoral Commission says voting in advance of election day is at least 20% higher than in the 2008 election.

Chief electoral officer Robert Peden is reported as saying voting early has become increasingly popular.

This is  because of convenience and the changing demands of people’s time on Saturdays.

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