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Wednesday, 24 April 2019 03:41 pm

Why local body elections aren’t occupying our minds

vote wgtnMAIN

WHY VOTE?: Matthew Beveridge and a Wellington poster urging people to vote.

AS local government elections roll out, voting is occupying the minds of Wellingtonians.
Or is it?

Ministry of Social Development data shows that local government voting is on the decline, with less than half of those enrolled to vote bothering to do so.

Voter turnout rates are an indicator of the extent to which citizens participate in the political process, the confidence the population has and the importance they attach to political institutions.

A lack of information about local government candidates, and a lack of enthusiasm for the voting process is the reason many people choose not to vote in local government elections.

Matthew Beveridge, a teaching student from Brooklyn, believes people choose not to engage in local government elections because there is a lack of media coverage and an absence of useful information.

“You see all the signs around, but local government is just not exciting,” he says.

Dr Jacky Zvulun studied voter turnout and electoral participation as part of his thesis for Otago University last year.

He suggests a variety of influences behind the drop-off:

  • busier 21st century lives,
  • a lack of motivation through the print media,
  • a voter base that is disconnected to the issues of the day,
  • and a public tiring of postal voting.

Matthew believes there is less accountability in local government, which leads to a lack of engagement and it all just leads to a vicious cycle of people who do not vote because they just do not care.

“In local government, there is no accountability for the use of rate-payers’ money.

“So no one cares, because there is no responsibility. Most people seem to think that there is this mythical creature down the bottom of the garden printing money.”

Matthew thinks people do not realise that the government is them: “They think there is this giant pool of resources but it comes from us, the public…. people seem to forget that.

“We all want stuff, but no one wants to pay for it.”

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) governance manager Mike Reid says surveys show people are voting less because the Government had made voting too complicated.

Inquiries after the 2004 and 2007 local body elections recommended that the Electoral Commission needs to provide more education and information about elections, the re-introduction of ballot boxes and a reduction in the voting time frame.

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2 comments
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  1. Good article – thanks. But why quote MSD for the poor election turn-out? That’s not a core concern of Social Devpt…

  2. i agree with most of Matthew’s comments. Somewhere in the the mid 50’s when I started to take an interest in the voting process the polling booth day was quite an event.
    Nowadays following the election process right through to most people is a little bit like watching grass grow. Very boring and I suspect in most people’s opinion pretty much a complete turnoff.
    No wonder people are not interested in voting anymore.
    The letter box used to be mostly a place for collecting useful forms of communication and mostly were not accompanied by loads of junk mail that now appear with the letters that have been posted to you.
    Included in that lot of course at election time are the additional political messages which most people consider junk.
    I would guess that the news media do not fall over backwards to help the democratic process of elections mostly because in general their agendas are mostly more concerned the day to day business of profit motives and the business daily communication. Who Knows?
    Bring back polling booth day.

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