Voting numbers

There’s a lot of talk about the voting numbers being abysmal in the local body elections.

Stuff reports on the poor turnout, and gives some comment:

Left-wing commentator Bryce Edwards said while there generally wasn’t a link between turnout at local body and general elections, both had seen participation fall over time.

The weekend’s low turnout was probably a result of it being a “business as usual election” with “really not much on the line and very little to inspire everyone”. …

Right-wing commentator David Farrar said there was a general downward trend in voter participation worldwide.

He agreed a lack of big political issues had contributed to turnout being low.

But postal voting had also been a significant factor. He knew “half a dozen people” who had forgotten to send off their ballot papers and had to race to the council offices to cast a last-minute vote.

“They have no relationship with a post office . . . and I think each year it’s going to get much worse with postal voting because the postal system is becoming less relevant.”

The Government has agreed to trial internet voting at the next election but Mr Farrar said it was not being implemented fast enough or widely enough.

David Farrar blogs some more on this: 

The Government has agreed to a trial for 2016, and I appreciate the efforts of Chris Tremain in getting this agreed to.

I’ve been involved with this issue since after the 2010 elections where I raised it at the select committee review of the election. I’ve met several Ministers over the issue, and various Mayors and people in Local Government NZ. A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes to make  an option for future local body elections (just an option, not to replace postal).  In fact all that is really needed from central Government is some regulations to be passed by Cabinet.

However the Department of Internal Affairs has been incredibly resistant to change, from what I have observed. If it were not for them, we could have been trialing e-voting in 2013.

A trial in 2016 is better than no trial at all. However the massively low turnouts should ring a warning bell that the status quo is not acceptable. Postal voting is a dying technology.

Regardless of whether e-voting is a solution to low turnouts or not it should be allowed because it’s catering for how a growing number of people interact online. I think it would make some difference, but on it’s own possibly not much.

Many people base their votes mainly or wholly on scant information and a photo in the election booklets. An online option should allow for links to much more detailed information on candidates.

Another thing that would help is for councils to engage much more effectively with people, and vice versa. This requires a lot of effort from both councils and from people to look at how to work together better, to create a better informed democracy. If people are more connected through the term they will be more likely to vote and will be better informed about what they are voting for,

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2 Comments

  1. Brown

     /  14th October 2013

    Repeat after me until it sinks in, “Farrar is not right wing”.

    Reply

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