Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why you should vote...

Your voice counts!

Its true - your voice really does count.  If you were one of the nearly 26% of kiwis (the worst turnout in a century) who did not vote in the last election in 2011 then this post is about you.  You may not realise it, but your vote is an important one.

In recent months there has been a lot of talk around about those kiwis who didn't vote in the last election - the disengaged voters - the great 'unenthused'.  With an election on the horizon each political party is desperate to tap into this resource.  If I was a gambling lady, I would hazard a guess that this election may well hang on the ability to get those who didn't vote last time, and those who are recently eligible,  to come out to the poles and cast that all important vote.   Believe it or not - the future of a number of parties - and in fact the next Government - rests upon it.

I am an avid political follower - it defies logic to me that someone would not exercise their democratic right and cast that all important vote.  To not have a say in our democracy seems like the utmost in irresponsible citizenship.  Its had me wondering.  Why don't people vote?  Who were these people?

So, a bit of digging, some research and I found out more.  From there I had some reflections.

Firstly - The Statistics:  

  • Only 73.8% of eligible voters turned out on election day in 2011- the worst in a century 
  • 21% of eligible voters 'didn't get around to it, forgot, or were not interested'
  • 20% of those who did not vote were either not eligible or did not register (12% didn't bother to register which is 2% of the total vote count) 
  • Of those who did not vote, the young (44% of 18-24yr olds), the poor and recent migrants were those mostly represented 
  • 43% were disengaged - of these, those who didn't think their vote counted or didn't trust the politicians, accounted for 22.2%
  • 10% were overseas or away at the time of the election (I wonder if they know that they can cast a special vote?)
  • Its interesting to note that 8% didn't vote due to not understanding the issues
  • 35% of those who are unemployed did not vote 
  • nearly 60% of recent migrants did not vote accounting for around 18% of those who did not vote
  • Those on a lower income tended to not vote 

People Who Did Not Vote 

My Reflections on the Stats:

It is interesting to look at the statistics behind why people chose not to vote.  What concerns me is how many decided to not vote based on either not feeling engaged enough to be interested, or because they did not know the issues or because they felt disenfranchised with the process.  If you were to really look at the statistics, most people fall into that category in some way, shape or form.

Even those who are offshore or working during an election have the ability to cast a special vote - and I can not help but wonder that if you were keen to have your vote counted you would make sure this took place.  

It is scary to think that our young feel so disenfranchised that they don't vote.  I know when I turned 18 I couldn't wait to vote.  What has happened to our youth that they feel so distanced and such apathy to the whole process.  Sure, civics in schools would be helpful, but its more than that.  Many issues that impact on them are often not high on the list of priorities of election campaigns.  I would suggest that to not tap into the needs of this demographic and inspire them to vote is a mistake.  It will be interesting to see how Dot Coms party fares with this demographic.  To inspire these young people to vote could be quite a game changer.

I wonder if we had the ability to vote online if this would make a difference?  The sceptic in me suggests that yes, it would make a huge difference but the reason its not going to happen in the next election is because it likely to disadvantage the current Government.  (I did say I was being a sceptic)

I wonder what kind of effort goes into assisting recent (and not so recent) migrants with information about our election system, and I wonder how many of the various political parties bother to actively seek their voice.  As migrants I no doubt they have numerous suggestion on equity, lessons we could learn and things we could do to strengthen things for all citizens.  The statistics showed many were Asian, seeking their voice should be a priority.  I imagine for all migrants it can not be easy to migrate to New Zealand.  An untapped demographic I would suggest.

Why Your Voice Is Important!

Your voice counts! 

Often people who don't vote feel it's because their voice will not be heard - that they will continue to feel marginalised and that no one cares about what they think.  I want to challenge that thought, and tell those of you who choose not to vote because 'no one cares' that actually, your voice is important and in this upcoming election, I believe your vote will be critical.

Odds are - the way you think is echoed by someone else.  Sure, there will be slight nuances and differences in the thinking, but whether it's 1000 people who think like you or 200,000 - then that is one heck of a voice.   Trust me when I say that combined, when you all vote , then that is one very powerful voice.  

All of the political parties out there - some new, others more established, are looking to expand their party vote.  The beauty of our MMP system is that regardless of whether you are left, right, centre, far left or far right in your thinking - there is a party that is keen to hear your voice, to understand what you need and want, and prepared to act on it.  You may not like politicians but one thing you can be assured of - they need you.   If you don't like your local MP or candidates - then you can give your party vote to who you feel best meets your way of thinking.

For those of you who did not vote last time - imagine if you (and those just like you - because there were plenty who felt the same way you do) had.  Those parties that did not quite get over the line may just well have - and as a result, some of the policies that the majority of kiwis have cringed over, would never have had the legs to get through.  The more MPs in parliament that represent your thinking the better and more balanced our country is.

So, heres the ultimate challenge.  Don't let any of the above reasons for people not voting last time put you off making the effort.  Your vote is important - your vote and your voice will make a difference and it could be the combined voice that brings balance and stability to public debate.

Exercise your democratic power as a citizen - who you are makes a difference! 

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