On the Hustings

In many ways, New Zealand's first elections were small-scale replicas of those in Britain.history-harts-poster-1853_0.jpg

Once the returning officer had set a date for the nomination of candidates, a temporary wooden stage - known as the 'hustings' - would be erected in some prominent public place.

Sometimes large, unruly crowds would gather on nomination day; on other occasions only a handful of electors would bother to show up. Candidates had to be proposed and seconded by registered electors, but the candidates themselves did not have to be present.

If there were more candidates than seats to be filled, those electors present would vote by a show of hands. Defeated candidates or their supporters could then demand that a poll be taken, and this would normally be held a day or two later.

Voting was held on working days, and polls were only open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each elector had to hand the polling official a voting paper, containing the name of his chosen candidate(s) and his own details. These voting papers were usually supplied (and filled in) by the candidates' committees. There was little or no secrecy about the way people voted.

As in Britain, New Zealand's early elections (especially in cities and towns) were often colourful, noisy and drunken occasions. Candidates and their supporting committees hired musicians, flew banners, and organised parades and banquets.

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Last updated: 15 February 2013