Referendum results live: NZ votes yes on euthanasia, no on cannabis legalisation

KEY POINTS:

• The results are in: It’s YES to euthanasia, NO to legalising cannabis, preliminary numbers show.
• Preliminary results were released at 2pm today; final results are released next Friday, November 6.
• The final results will include about 480,000 special votes.
• It will be about a year before terminal patients can request assisted dying.

New Zealanders have voted yes on euthanasia, no on cannabis legalisation, preliminary numbers show.

With an estimated 17 per cent of votes still to be counted, 65.2 per cent voted in support of the End of Life Choice Act, while 53.1 per cent voted against the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

Supporters of cannabis reform were looking for at least a close margin in the preliminary referendum results, which were released at 2pm.

Recent polls had the “no” vote on legalising cannabis substantially ahead of the “yes” vote.

After the announcement, Justice Minister Andrew Little said the chances of special votes flipping the cannabis referendum result were very remote.

“The probability of that is so low to be virtually non-existent.”

Based on 480,000 special votes, 32 per cent ‘no’ and 68 per cent ‘yes’ would change the result of the cannabis referendum.

ACT leader David Seymour thanked MPs for supporting the End of Life Choice Bill through Parliament.

He also thanked Dame Jenny Gibbs for “giving me the courage as a young MP to pursue this cause”, Brooke van Veldon for her work in rallying support in Parliament for the bill, and National MP Chris Bishop.

He said New Zealand would be “a kinder, more compassionate, more humane society – what a great day to be a Kiwi”.

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Andrew Little said voters had spoken and were “uncomfortable” with legalisation of cannabis.

The drug law changes last year had led to a level of decriminalisation, he added.

“In the end, people weren’t ready to make that step.”

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick said the final result on cannabis legalisation wouldn’t be known until November 6.

“Today’s result shows what we had long assumed, that it was going to be really close and that we need to wait for the specials to be sure of the result.

“We have said from the outset that this would always come down to voter turnout. We’ve had record numbers of special votes, so I remain optimistic.

“New Zealand has had a really mature and ever evolving conversation about drug laws in this country and we’ve come really far in the last three years.

“Many who have traditionally felt disenfranchised by the political system may have their voices heard at the specials. We’ll wait to see how that plays out next week”.

Former prime minister Helen Clark, who supported a “yes” vote on cannabis, told the Herald before the results were released that legalising cannabis could make a positive difference in thousands of people’s lives.

“The jury is out on whether New Zealand will move with the times, recognise the reality of widespread cannabis availability and use and regulate around that, or whether it will continue to look the other way and let the harmful impacts of prohibition continue to be felt.”

David Seymour hosted an event at Parliament from 1pm that heard from Shirley Seales and, via Skype from New York, Matt Vickers – the mother and widowed husband of euthanasia campaigner Lecretia Seales.

Shirley Seales gave an emotional speech acknowledging her daughter’s legacy.

“I’m sure [Lecretia] would never have imagined that she would still be acknowledged for the part she has played. She would be very humbled and I know she would want others acknowledged.”

She paid tribute to Matt Vickers, several lawyers who advocated for the cause, and MPs including Seymour, Maryan Street and Michael Laws.

She said it had been “particularly upsetting to hear lies about Lecretia throughout the campaign”.

“I have been tempted to respond, but my greatest reward will be a majority vote. We are extremely proud of Lecretia, and I’m sure she is smiling down on us all.”

Today’s result marks the end of the five-year journey for Seymour since he first put the End of Life Choice Bill in the ballot.

The referendum is binding and the majority “yes” vote will see it become law, with terminal patients able to request assisted dying from November 6 next year.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed she voted yes in both referendums and would progress any legislation in line with the will of the people following the release of the final results next week.

The Electoral Commission said the two-week wait for the preliminary referendum results was down to prioritising the votes for the general election, for which preliminary results were released within hours of polling booths closing.

“We’re guided by the Referendums Framework Act which made it clear that the priority was to get the official count of election results under way first, so that the referendum count did not delay the final general election results,” a commission spokeswoman said.

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