Referendum One - November/December 2015

The first referendum on the New Zealand flag is now complete, and results are available at

Between 20 November and 11 December 2015, New Zealanders were invited to vote in the first referendum on the future of the New Zealand on the question “If the New Zealand flag changes, which flag would you prefer?”. They were asked to rank the five alternative flag designs selected through the Flag Consideration process.

On the voting paper, voters were asked to rank the alternative flag options – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – in the order they preferred them, writing a “1” in the box of the flag option they preferred most. Then they could put a “2” in the box of the option they preferred next, and so on.

This is what the voting paper looked like:

Sample ballot paper for the first referendum

Voters could rank as many or as few flag options as they wished, but shouldn’t skip a number or use the same number more than once. Examples of correctly completed voting papers are at the bottom of this page.

The preferential voting system 

If one flag option gets fifty percent or more of all the first preference votes (that is votes marked "1") it will be selected on the first count.

If no flag option gets fifty percent or more of the first preference votes, the flag with the least number “1” votes is dropped and its votes go to the flag each voter ranked next. This continues until one flag gets fifty percent or more of the valid votes.

This system of voting is called Preferential Voting (PV) and is used for elections to the House of Representatives in Australia and to elect some mayors in New Zealand, including in Wellington and Dunedin.

Find out more about how Preferential Voting works here.

QR codes on the voting paper

 The QR code enables your name to be marked off the electoral roll when your voting paper is returned - while at the same time protecting the secrecy of your vote.  This is required by law to identify any cases of dual voting.  

When the voting paper is returned, the QR code is scanned to mark off your name on the electoral roll. Your vote is recorded, but not counted, in a separate database from the electoral roll to preserve the secrecy of your vote.

Informal and Invalid Votes

Under section 32 of the New Zealand Flag Referendum Act, an informal vote is recorded when for the first referendum, the voting paper does not clearly indicate the voter’s first preference and for the second flag referendum, where the voting paper does not clearly indicate the option for which the elector wished to vote.  This can be because the voter leaves the paper blank, the voter takes deliberate action to spoil the paper, or an error by the voter means that their intention is not clear. Informal votes are included in the overall turnout, but do not count towards the result.

Under Section 33 of the Act, a vote is recorded as invalid for a number of reasons including being a forgery or a copy, being received after the voting period has closed, where a person has voted more than once, or the voting paper is damaged in such a way that it cannot be processed.

The official results record turnout as percentage of enrolled electors, and how many informal votes and invalid votes were received in total. 

Example voting papers

All of these voting papers have been correctly completed, and would be accepted and counted.


Last updated: 26 September 2017