2020 New Zealand euthanasia referendum

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2020 New Zealand euthanasia referendum
17 October 2020

Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?
LocationNew Zealand
Results
Response Votes %
Yes 1,893,290 65.91%
No 979,079 34.09%
Valid votes 2,872,369 98.77%
Invalid or blank votes 35,702 1.23%
Total votes 2,908,071 100.00%

The New Zealand End of Life Choice referendum was a binding referendum[1] held on 17 October 2020, with early voting taking place from 3 October, in conjunction with the 2020 general election and cannabis referendum, on the question of whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 should come into force.[2] The Act would legalise voluntary euthanasia for those with a terminal illness and less than six months left to live, if confirmed to be eligible by two doctors.[1][3] New Zealand is the first country to put euthanasia legalisation to a referendum.[1]

As the majority of voters support the legislation, the bill will come into force on 6 November 2021, 12 months after the final vote count was announced.[4] Preliminary results for the referendum were released by the Electoral Commission on 30 October 2020, and official results were released on 6 November 2020. In the final results, 65.1% of people supported the End of Life Choice Act while 33.7% were opposed.[5]

Background[edit]

Euthanasia is currently illegal in New Zealand, and it is illegal to "aid and abet suicide" under Section 179 of the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961. Two earlier attempts to legalise euthanasia failed to get through the New Zealand Parliament. Hawkes Bay National MP Michael Laws' 1995 Death with Dignity Bill failed by 61 votes against and 29 supporting, and NZ First MP Peter Brown's 2003 Death with Dignity Bill failed in its first reading by 60 votes opposing to 58 supporting.[6]

ACT party MP David Seymour entered the End of Life Choice Bill to the private member's bill ballot in October 2015.[7] The bill passed its first reading 76–44 in December 2017 and its second reading 70–50 in June 2019.[8][9] In the Committee of the whole House, support from the New Zealand First party became conditional on a referendum on whether the law should come into force.[3] An amendment to require a referendum passed 69–51.[10] The bill passed its third reading 69–51 on 13 November[11] and it received royal assent on 16 November 2019, becoming the End of Life Choice Act 2019.

Referendum structure[edit]

A sample ballot for the 2020 referenda.

The referendum asked voters:[4]

Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?

The two options were:[4]

  • "Yes, I support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force."
  • "No, I do not support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force."

If the majority of voters support the legislation, it will come into force 12 months after the final vote count is announced.[4] If the majority oppose the legislation in the referendum (or any subsequent referendum, if the first is voided), it will not come into force and will be repealed by 16 November 2024, five years after it received the royal assent.[2]

Public opinion[edit]

Support for assisted dying since 2000 has averaged at around 68%.[3] During the 16-month-long select committee stage of the End of Life Choice Bill, 39,000 public submissions were made, with 90% of submitters opposed to it.[10] Over one thousand doctors signed an open letter in mid-2019 saying that they "want no part in assisted suicide".[12]

Summary of poll results given below. Lines give the mean estimated by a LOESS smoother (smoothing set to span = 0.75).
Date Polling organisation Sample size For Against Undecided Lead
10–14 Oct 2020 1 News Colmar Brunton 1,005 60 33 7 27
17–21 Sep 2020 1 News Colmar Brunton 1,008 64 25 11 39
20–23 Aug 2020 Research New Zealand 1,003 62 24 14 38
9–13 Jul 2020 Research New Zealand 1,012 64 18 18 46
6-8 Mar 2020 Research New Zealand 1,000 60 21 19 39
8–12 Feb 2020 1 News Colmar Brunton 1,004 65 25 9 40
27 Nov – 2 Dec 2019 Research New Zealand 750 70 24 6 48
17–26 Nov 2019 Horizon Research 1,521 70 30 40
20–24 Jul 2019 1 News Colmar Brunton 1,003 72 20 7 52
19–29 Apr 2019 Horizon Research 1,341 74 19 7 55

Campaigning and endorsements[edit]

The rules regarding campaigning for the referendum are generally the same as for the general election. All advertisements must carry a promoter statement, stating the name and physical address of the promoter. It is illegal to campaign on polling day, or within a 10-metre (33 ft) radius of an advance polling booth.

During the regulated period, which runs from 18 August to 16 October 2020, promoters have to declare their campaign expenses and there are limits on how much they may spend on referendum campaigning. The maximum expense limit is $338,000 per referendum for those promoters registered with the Electoral Commission, and $13,600 per referendum for unregistered promoters.[13]

Results[edit]

Results of the 2020 euthanasia referendum

Unlike the general election, a preliminary count for the cannabis and euthanasia referendums was not conducted on election night (17 October 2020). Instead, the referendum votes will be counted alongside the mandatory election recount.[14]

All voting papers, counterfoils and electoral rolls are returned to the electorate's returning officer for counting. During the count, the returning officer will approve and count any special votes, and compile a master electoral roll to ensure no-one has voted more than once.[15] Special votes include votes from those who enrolled after the deadline of 13 September, those who voted outside their electorate (this includes all overseas votes), voters in hospital or prison, and those voters enrolled on the unpublished roll.[16] To simplify processing and counting, overseas votes will be sent to and counted at the Electoral Commission's central processing centre in Wellington, rather than to electorate returning officers.[17]

Preliminary results for the referendums were released by the Electoral Commission on 30 October 2020.[18] These results had 65.2% of people in support of the legislation with 33.8% opposed.[5]

Following the counting of the 480,000 special votes, official results for the general election and referendums were released on 6 November. Based on the final results, 65.1% of people supported the legislation while 33.7% opposed it.[19]

Official results of the New Zealand euthanasia referendum, 17 October 2020[19]
Option Votes
Num. %
checkY Yes 1,893,290 65.91
☒N No 979,079 34.09
Total 2,872,369 100.00
Informal votes 35,702 1.23
Total votes cast 2,908,071 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 3,549,564 82.24

By polling place location[edit]

As each polling place had only one ballot box for ordinary referendum votes, ordinary votes were broken down by the general electorate where the polling place was located. Special votes were broken down by electorate. Both ordinary and special votes have been combined in the following table.[20]

Electorate checkY Yes ☒N No Informal Turnout
Num. % Num %
Auckland Central 28,889 76.88 8,690 23.12 417
Banks Peninsula 31,660 68.93 14,268 31.07 458
Bay of Plenty 31,743 69.11 14,186 30.89 401
Botany 22,417 57.25 16,740 42.75 575
Christchurch Central 30,899 67.87 14,629 32.13 603
Christchurch East 32,799 68.84 14,843 31.16 518
Coromandel 33,745 70.64 14,023 29.36 432
Dunedin 34,560 68.77 15,694 31.23 505
East Coast 34,645 65.84 17,972 34.16 710
East Coast Bays 29,890 68.03 17,972 31.97 416
Epsom 31,138 70.12 13,267 29.88 485
Hamilton East 28,862 62.10 17,616 37.90 591
Hamilton West 29,127 63.22 16,942 36.78 627
Hutt South 33,503 66.63 16,778 33.37 672
Ilam 27,562 64.88 14,921 35.12 453
Invercargill 26,536 63.77 15,076 36.23 404
Kaikoura 29,961 70.17 12,738 29.83 353
Kaipara ki Mahurangi 34,951 70.00 14,979 30.00 504
Kelston 19,078 58.72 13,411 41.28 583
Mana 25,331 63.87 14,979 36.13 559
Māngere 11,774 38.37 13,411 61.63 745
Manurewa 18,677 46.84 21,201 53.16 1,025
Maungakiekie 24,005 62.68 14,295 37.32 561
Mount Albert 30,697 71.46 12,260 28.54 561
Mount Roskill 21,326 55.66 16,990 44.34 779
Napier 32,530 70.95 13,321 29.05 519
Nelson 34,240 69.85 14,777 30.15 545
New Lynn 26,349 64.60 14,438 35.40 672
New Plymouth 31,526 66.57 15,835 33.43 461
North Shore 29,637 69.93 12,745 30.07 362
Northcote 28,002 68.08 13,128 31.92 468
Northland 34,542 67.25 16,819 32.75 636
Ōhāriu 27,437 67.70 13,093 32.30 434
Ōtaki 35,022 68.01 16,477 31.99 573
Pakuranga 25,091 62.83 14,842 37.17 483
Palmerston North 25,756 62.58 15,401 37.42 459
Panmure-Ōtāhuhu 14,868 47.54 16,406 52.46 956
Papakura 27,050 65.12 14,486 34.88 563
Port Waikato 28,886 67.71 13,763 32.29 446
Rangitata 29,775 65.57 15,632 34.43 475
Rangitīkei 29,312 65.80 15,236 34.20 396
Remutaka 26,608 64.29 14,781 35.71 511
Rongotai 29,505 69.92 12,696 30.08 761
Rotorua 29,376 64.94 15,862 35.06 582
Selwyn 27,738 69.72 12,046 30.28 284
Southland 27,664 68.83 12,526 31.17 327
Taieri 28,688 66.12 14,702 33.88 410
Takanini 17,251 56.73 13,158 43.27 624
Tāmaki 28,660 67.52 13,787 32.48 474
Taranaki-King Country 27,061 67.55 12,998 32.45 370
Taupō 33,842 68.11 15,842 31.89 453
Tauranga 33,647 65.59 17,652 34.41 506
Te Atatū 25,380 58.68 17,872 41.32 695
Tukituki 30,037 67.18 14,675 32.82 505
Upper Harbour 23,267 63.94 13,121 36.06 454
Waikato 24,346 64.77 13,241 35.23 419
Waimakariri 30,917 68.15 14,450 31.85 388
Wairarapa 33,290 69.38 14,693 30.62 467
Waitaki 28,862 68.03 13,566 31.97 401
Wellington Central 46,187 76.14 14,474 23.86 666
West Coast-Tasman 28,941 71.36 11,615 28.64 446
Whanganui 28,749 64.04 16,128 35.94 483
Whangaparāoa 29,539 68.24 13,747 31.76 304
Whangārei 34,823 67.85 16,500 32.15 642
Wigram 28,259 63.90 15,965 36.10 623
Hauraki-Waikato 3,915 58.71 2,753 41.29 255
Ikaroa-Rāwhiti 3,390 60.68 2,197 39.32 224
Tāmaki Makaurau 3,984 58.19 2,862 41.81 240
Te Tai Hauāuru 3,734 59.93 2,497 40.07 173
Te Tai Tokerau 3,942 59.15 2,722 40.85 204
Te Tai Tonga 4,157 67.63 1,990 32.37 185
Waiariki 3,753 57.63 2,759 42.37 241
Total 1,893,290 65.91 979,079 34.09 35,702

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Graham-McLay, Charlotte (13 November 2019). "New Zealand to vote in referendum on euthanasia". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b "End of Life Choice Act 2019 No 67, Public Act 2 Commencement – New Zealand Legislation". www.legislation.govt.nz. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Euthanasia bill passes final vote, goes to referendum". The New Zealand Herald. 13 November 2019. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Referendum on the End of Life Choice Act 2019". referendum.govt.nz. New Zealand Government. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  5. ^ a b "REFERENDUM RESULTS". Electoral Commission of New Zealand. 6 November 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  6. ^ "Assisted dying: New Zealand - New Zealand Parliament". www.parliament.nz. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  7. ^ Seymour, David. "Seymour lodges assisted dying Bill". ACT.org.nz. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  8. ^ "Euthanasia bill passes second reading". The New Zealand Herald. 26 June 2019. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  9. ^ "Euthanasia bill passes second reading in Parliament". Radio New Zealand. 26 June 2019. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  10. ^ a b Cooke, Henry (13 November 2019). "Euthanasia bill passes 69-51, sending the final decision to a referendum". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  11. ^ Cooke, Henry (13 November 2019). "MPs vote in favour of End of Life Choice Bill at final reading". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  12. ^ Collins, Simon (22 June 2019). "1000 Kiwi doctors sign letter against euthanasia". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  13. ^ "Change in regulated period | Elections". elections.nz. Electoral Commission. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  14. ^ "About the 2020 General Election". vote.nz. Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  15. ^ "How are general election votes counted?". Elections.nz. Electoral Commission. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  16. ^ "Can't get to a voting place?". Elections.nz. Electoral Commission. Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  17. ^ "Party Secretary Handbook - 2020 General Election and Referendums" (PDF). Electoral Commission.
  18. ^ "New Zealand euthanasia: Assisted dying to be legal for terminally ill people". BBC News. 30 October 2020. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Official referendum results released | Elections". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  20. ^ "2020 Referendum Results by electorate". Electoral Commission. 6 November 2020.

External links[edit]