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Voting process confusing for remote voters

Nov 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

IS NEW ZEALAND’S most remote polling place also its most disaffected?

Situated 800km east of New Zealand, the lone polling booth in the council building on Chatham Island is our most remote polling place – and very few residents turn up there on Election Day.

Nearly everybody NewsWire tried to contact was out fishing, suggesting Chatham Islanders are too busy to involve themselves in the machinations of a distant government.

“We pay taxes, but other than that we are mainly separate,” says Councillor Nigel Ryan.

Chatham Island residents appear to be apathetic towards a Government some feel doesn’t represent their needs, with only 122 votes recorded at the single polling booth in the 2008 election.

Another 27 special votes were also cast, bringing the total up to 149 – well below the national turnout level of 79.5% in 2008.

Of a rough population estimate of 612, a figure provided in the latest council reports, 370 are enrolled to vote this election – that’s roughly one voter for every 243 hectares of land.

Even voter turnout for local body elections is less than 60%.

Cr Ryan says the population is too tiny to make a difference in politics.

“There seems to be money going to Samoa and Rarotonga and not down here. We should be a part of New Zealand, or not be a part,”

Electoral commission spokeswomen Anastasia Turnbull says the team puts a lot of effort into making sure everybody from the islands has a chance to vote.

“The postal votes for Pitt Islanders and Kaingaroa residents go out on the first day of advance voting, so they then have as many days as possible to get their votes back,” she says.

Islanders could be forgiven for confusion over their political representation – every democratic process sees the islands tacked onto a different part of New Zealand.

Until the 1980’s the Chathams were part of the Lyttelton electorate, before being moved to Wellington’s Rongotai.

But those on the Maori roll vote in Te Tai Tonga, which also covers the entire South Island, Wellington, most of Lower Hutt.

Still more confusingly, when district health board elections roll around, islanders are asked to vote in the Hawkes Bay DHB.

Their lone police officer is provided from the Wellington Police District, and Wellington City Council assists with a library service, which is also funded partly by the Chatham Islands council.

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is A Journalism Student at Whitireia in Wellington, New Zealand. His specialty areas are digital culture, politics and cyber-crime.
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  1. Articles like this are why I continue to make newswire part of my daily browsing habit! Fantastic!

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