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Wednesday, 24 April 2019 07:50 am

Faith in the political system in short supply

Dec 1st, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, Opinion

THE election.

I covered the election and worked in a polling place and I figure by now, most of us have heard enough about it to last us a lifetime.

I hate to say it, but I think we’ve all lost sight of what an election means and what politicians are there to do.

Between the extensive coverage everywhere you look and then election day consisting of a 7.45am start, followed by more than twelve hours of stamping, ripping, folding, unfolding, counting, and organising a thousand rainforests worth of papers, I’ve definitely seen and heard about all I (n)ever wanted to know about the election.

I think that like myself, many people have lost faith in the way things work. They think their vote won’t make a difference, they think it won’t matter because no one can “fix” things anyway, and we’ve all been too overwhelmed with smarmy campaigns and baby kissing to take things seriously.

As a journalism student, I guess I can’t complain. It’s our job to cover the election, though it seems a bit silly that we should give so much coverage to these politicians who only ever crawl out of the woodwork to campaign (minus the impromptu planking, of course).

During my own coverage of the election, I found a lot of people aren’t “informed” and a lot of them couldn’t care less about anything that doesn’t directly affect them.

Some said their voting would be based on guesswork and things that have “worked well enough so far I suppose”, some said they were voting one way because their families were, and some said they’d just tick a random box.

That’s why, when I turned up at the polling place to work on election day, I wasn’t really too surprised at the turnout.

The doors opened at 9am and there was a steady stream of keen early morning voters, but after an hour or two it dropped off and everyone seemed to be going through the motions, voting for the hell of it.

Mostly they seemed more concerned with getting back out to the nice weather.

Obligation forced by social pressures, I wonder?

The keenest voters we had in included a kid who just wanted to play with my stamp, a pug dog who was casually perched on his owner’s shoulder, and a group of men who swept in dressed as Batman characters and had a little soiree in the waiting area, though I suspect they were off to a party afterwards.

And when I say “suspect”, what I actually mean is, “secretly hope”.

Among the least keen were a man who had been dragged in by his wife, a couple of first time voters who had been brought in by their parents, and one man who noticed the party scrutineer sitting in the corner, got offended by his mere presence, made a bit of a scene and then left.

Don’t get me wrong, we did have a decent turnout for where we were, and most people seemed in high spirits, but I just can’t help but wonder how many of us vote out of political interest and democracy, as opposed to social obligation or a right to complain later.

Perhaps what best sums it up is something a man said on Saturday:

“I can’t really complain about the country if I don’t vote, eh?”

But you can’t really complain if you don’t actually aim to effect change, either, surely.

I don’t know.

All I do know is all the  stamping, ripping, folding, unfolding, counting, and organising, plus all the interviewing, researching, and campaign consumption has left me feeling well within my rights to complain the next time something goes wrong.

And while I doubt John Key will be the political superhero voters expect him to be, I truly hope the country will get more behind the system and stop taking democracy for granted.

I think we all need something, or someone to renew our faith in the system.

Tights and theme music optional.

Cape compulsory.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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  1. Bravo Siena, well done.

    It was great to see you in the polling station on Saturday! I’m sure you know the reasons I voted.

    Canada and the United States have had inspirational figures in the last few years (Jack Layton and Barack Obama respectively), which inspired the youth to not only get out and vote, but also to vocally and publicly back their leaders.

    I look forward to the day New Zealand’s answer to Jack Layton is found.

  2. Great article Siena, when you see how some elections go in other countries where the voting forms are near pre selected with the winner, booths with armed guards and intimidation, and having to be stamped with a coloured die to show you voted, we dont know how lucky we are

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