Voter turnout by age group

Here are the final voter turnout totals and percentages by age band for the 2017 election:


Turnout is voters as % of total enrolled.

Under 30 turnout increased significantly more than older age brackets. This may be due to efforts to encourage young people to vote, and may also be influenced by increasingly easy advance voting options, including polling booths on university campuses.

It may also be that younger peoeple were more inclined to vote this time because Labour suddenly didn’t look hopeless any more, and Jacinda Ardern encouraged them to participate.

Whatever the reasons, higher turnout, especially of young voters, is a good thing.

Age band comparison of turnout:



Compulsory voting isn’t a solution

A lot has been said about getting more people to vote, especially younger people. Campaigns to get more people enrolled and voting have not achieved much.

Usually it seems that political activists and commentators who are pushing for more voting think that it will get different results – the results they want.

It’s hard to argue with the decisions of those who vote (although it’s not uncommon to see people who don’t like election outcomes to accuse those who voted differently to their preference of being stupid or ill-informed).

While it’s unknown what the preference of non-voters is but some seem to assume that  they must think like them (except about the importance of voting) and if they can be forced to vote it will give them the result they want.

Lizzie Marvelly writes: Why voting shouldn’t be a matter of choice

Trends from the last few elections have shown a dwindling number of people voting in younger age groups, and they’re not suddenly voting when they get older.

Voting is habitual behaviour, and if you don’t get into the habit when you’re young, it’s statistically very unlikely you’ll hit 40 and suddenly develop a hankering to skip down to the ballot box.

That’s wrong, according to the 2014 election turnout statistics.

Age range Voters Non-voters Non-voters Total enrolled
18 – 24 212,204 126,065 37.27% 338,269
25 – 29 152,409 92,967 37.89% 245,376
30 – 34 169,899 82,190 32.60% 252,089
35 – 39 187,856 70,302 27.23% 258,158
40 – 44 226,110 70,534 23.78% 296,644
45 – 49 234,758 64,065 21.44% 298,823
50 – 54 248,257 59,117 19.23% 307,374
55 – 59 226,927 45,589 16.73% 272,516
60 – 64 204,604 33,377 14.03% 237,981
65 – 69 185,803 25,198 11.94% 211,001
70+ 362,030 60,156 14.25% 422,186
Total 2,410,857 729,560 23.23% 3,140,417

It’s possible that non-voters predominantly die young, but this suggests strongly that a significant number of people start voting as they get older.

Though the breakdown of voter demographics in this election hasn’t yet been released, it’s unlikely it will reveal any evidence of a significant and lasting reversal in our dismal youth voting statistics.

Enrolment statistics for this year show that by mid to late 30s about 97% of people are enrolled.

As such, it’s time to start thinking about future-proofing our democratic tradition.

As I’m no stranger to controversy, I’m just going to come out and say it. I think it’s time that we talked about compulsory voting.

It’s not controversial, as Marvelly later shows.

Former Prime Ministers Jim Bolger, Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Mike Moore have all supported the idea of New Zealand following Australia’s lead and introducing compulsory voting, and indeed, more than 20 other countries around the world also have compulsory voting systems.

Compulsory voting has often been suggested as a solution to a problem that we may not have. Many more than 20 countries manage without making voting compulsory.

To me, voting is not simply a right, but a responsibility. If we enjoy the privilege of living in New Zealand, it is our responsibility as citizens to make sure that our nation is governed by the parties that truly represent the will of the people.

If course a democracy needs a significant number of people to vote. But if the will of some people is not to care about who governs the country, if the will of some people is not to vote, then forcing them to vote is forcing them to do something against their will.

Only 78 per cent of eligible voters had a say this year. That’s nearly a quarter of us who had no input into the team that will lead our country for the next three years. That’s not good enough.

Why isn’t it good enough? If people choose not to have any input what’s wrong with that?

Voting is one of the few things Australia does better than we do, and that really bugs me.

While their voting is ‘compulsory’ their voting rates dropped to a nearly 100 year low of 91% in last year’s election – actually a low since voting was made compulsory in 1925.

I think the quality of governments voted for by Australians over the past decade bugs more people. Voter turnout doesn’t matter if quality of options is poor.

I’m not saying that I think people should be forced to cast a vote for the sake of it if they don’t feel that they can support any of the parties or the candidates — voters should always have the option to “spoil” their votes.

I think there’s a good case for a ‘non of the above’ option, simply spoiling a voting paper doesn’t count in any meaningful way.

Another important step we should take to safeguard the future of our democratic society is one I’ve written about before. I’m a strong supporter of lowering the voting age to 16 and implementing civics education in our curriculum.

That is controversial, both lowering the voting age, and having civics education in our curriculum. Education young people about our system of democracy and government is worthwhile, but it would have to be done impartially, if that was possible in schools.

If young Kiwis formed the voting habit while still at school, we’d likely see our youth turnout statistics rise almost immediately.

Maybe, maybe not. The younger voters are the lower the turnout, so going younger still may reduce the % turnout.

Also, when faced with a whole new demographic of voters, politicians would finally have to take young people’s concerns seriously.

That may be the crux of Marvelly’s argument – she wants her concerns taken more seriously and thinks that young non-voters will share her concerns. Young people who don’t vote may have different concerns.

But if voting is made compulsory more older people will vote, quite possibly more than younger people. It could backfire on Marvelly having her concerns addressed.

I would theorise that the impact on environmental policy would be particularly profound, as politicians who will be dead when the worst ravages of climate change sweep the planet would be forced to do more than pay lip service to tokenistic environmental policy — or face the consequences on election day.

But young people in particular are notorious for not thinking about the future. Making them vote won’t make them consider what state the world might be in for their grandchildren.

Marvelly seems to think like many disappointed with election results – that non-voters will share their concerns. I’m not aware of this being based on any research at all.

Whatever the methods, it’s time that we created a culture in which voting was an expectation for all, rather than an exercise in self-selection. The voices of the missing 22 per cent are just as important as those of the people who showed up to the ballot box, and it should concern us all that they’re not being heard.

That statement is highly debatable. It doesn’t concern me that many people don’t vote, either by choice or by slackness or by disinterest.

It seems that what Marvelly really wants is her concerns heard, and instead of encouraging more people to share her concerns and vote accordingly she thinks that compulsory voting will do the job for her.

And as for those who argue that compulsory voting might skew the vote one way or another (which is an illogical argument given it would essentially involve bemoaning a truer representation of our society than our currently older-skewed voting population), Australia’s pendulum swinging political landscape suggests the will of the people can go either way, no matter how many people vote.

Marvelly argued that she wants voting skewed more towards her own concerns, by compulsion.

Because that’s what democracy is really about. The people. Nga tangata. Not Winston. Not just the 78 per cent who voted.

All of us.

Actually 78% only applies to enrolled voters, about another 8% choose not to even enrol, or just don’t get around to it.

Is democracy really about making people do something they don’t want to do or don’t care about doing? I think people should have a right not to vote if that’s what they choose.

If Marvelly wants more young people to vote she should find out what appeals to them.

Making things compulsory for young people often has non-intended consequences. They tend to not like being forced to do something they don’t care about.

As far as democracy goes making voting compulsory seems to be trying to fix a problem we don’t have. It is more like individuals trying to force results they aren’t getting by democratic means.

Revised election statistics, turnout down

The Electoral commission has released revised election statistics.

  • Estimated eligible population: 3,569,830
  • Total number enrolled: 3,298,009
  • Election night votes counted: 2,169,802
  • Special votes still to be counted: 384,072
  • Total estimated votes: 2,563,740
    (Total 2014 votes counted: 2,416,479)

This has brought the turnout down to just below the turnout in 2014 (by my calculation).

  • Estimated 2017 turnout (of enrolled voters): 77.6%
  • Actual 2014 turnout (of enrolled voters): 77.9%

So that is a slightly lower turnout, despite the large increase in advance votes  and despite the claims of ‘youthquakes’.

  • Estimated 2017 turnout (of eligible voters):71.7%

This turnout based on eligible voters is not usually stated but I would have thought it more pertinent.







Total votes and turnout

Total provisional votes: 2,169,802

Special votes (about): 384,000

Estimated total votes: 2,553,802

Total votes in 2014: 2,416,479

Approximate increase in votes 2014 to 2017:  137,323

Estimated eligible voters: 3,569,830

Estimated turnout of eligible voters: 71.5%
BUT the statistics commonly used are percentage of enrolled voters.

Estimated turnout of enrolled voters: 78.8%

So that is a slight increase on last election (where Labour did very poorly). Past turnout:


Voter/non-voter rates

An interesting comparison of enrolled voter/non-voter rates by age group from


The 18-24 group is larger because it covers 7 years, the rest are five year groupings except for 70+

Enrolments improve as people get older but after the fifties they start to die off more.

By the time of the last general election in 2014, nearly 23 per cent of registered voters did not vote, and a further 252,581 eligible voters did not even enrol.

It’s looking like it could be worse this year – the registration data showed just over 349,000 eligible voters had yet to enrol, said Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics at Massey University, in May.

More will have enrolled since May and from now until the election.

It’s hard to know what the voter turnout will be in September. The lack of a strong alternative may put some people off voting.

“Broadly speaking, those who are quietly shuffling away from electoral politics tend to be Maori, people without work or on low incomes, and members of some recent migrant communities (especially those from nations without long-standing democratic norms and conventions).”

From Older Kiwi voters still out in force, but what about our younger citizens?


Last day/s to vote on flag

The Electoral Commission is advising that votes in the flag referendum should be posted today to ensure they are received on time in the flag referendum, so if you want to vote but haven’t yet then it’s time to act.

The closing date is Thursday (24 March) and I think in the first referendum as long as they were postmarked before or on the final day they were accepted, so if you don’t do it today then tomorrow or Wednesday may also make the cut.

There were 1,707,207 votes received by last Thursday, compared to under 1.2 million (48.78%) at about the same stage of the first referendum, so it’s a healthy turnout of nearly 54% already.

The asset sale turnout was about 47% but that was non-binding and was more of a political campaign run by the opposition.


If you haven’t already voted, tick and post.

Enrolments declining, flawed poll

Stuff reports Voter enrolment rates declining:

Voter enrolment rates are declining in almost every electorate in New Zealand, despite a general election being less than two months away.

As we reported last month about 367,000 eligible voters are yet to enrol to vote.

Since that report, the percentage of eligible voters enrolled to vote has fallen in all but six electorates, according to the latest figures from the Electoral Commission – albeit by less than one per cent in most cases.

That’s disappointing but not surprising considering the declining standards in politics, the current campaign circus and the disarray in Labour. It will be an uphill battle for Labour and other parties who have claimed they will “get out the vote” by targeting non-voters.

Stuff has a poll on it’s Political page that links with this but it is seriously flawed. Current result are:

Will you be voting in this year’s General Election?

  • Yes, I always vote – 902 votes, 92.5%
  • Not this year. None of the parties represent my political views – 55 votes, 5.6%
  • I never vote – 18 votes, 1.8%

The Yes response is far higher than likely voter turnout (last election it was 74.2%) but this self selecting poll will never give anywhere near an accurate result.

People who are disillusioned with the current parties are less likely to be reading the Political pages at Stuff and those who never vote are far less likely to be anywhere near a political news page poll.

This is like going to a public bar and polling patrons on who might have a drink on election day. The “Never drink” response is likely to be quite low.

Turnout over the last sixty years (since polling has been on a Saturday):

1954 13-Nov 91.4
1957 30-Nov 92.9
1960 26-Nov 89.8
1963 30-Nov 89.6
1966 26-Nov 86
1969 29-Nov 88.9
1972 25-Nov 89.1
1975 29-Nov 82.5
1978 25-Nov 69.2[9]
1981 28-Nov 91.4
1984 14-Jul 93.7
1987 15-Aug 89.1
1990 27-Oct 85.2
1993 6-Nov 85.2
1996 12-Oct 88.3
1999 27-Nov 84.8
2002 27-Jul 77
2005 17-Sep 80.9
2008 8-Nov 79.5
2011 26-Nov 74.2

[9] This figure is misleading because the electoral rolls in 1978 contained a large number of outdated and duplicate entries. If the 361,000 names deleted in 1979-80 are subtracted, the turnout was 79.9%