Who is to blame for low voter turn out and why online voting isn’t the solution



So now everyone is running around like headless chooks complaining about low voter turn out.


The reasons why we have low voter turn outs are obvious, the solutions even more so. The reason we don’t want to talk about the actual causes of our low voter turn out are the exact same reasons we don’t want to know why our suicide rates are so astronomical – it’s because we don’t want to know the answer.

So let’s point out why the voter turn out is so low for the thousandth bloody time shall we?

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

It’s built that way.

We don’t want poor people voting, if they did, neoliberalism would never gain power again. This Government have purposely dumbed down media, we have Paul Henry foaming at the mouth in the morning and Mike Hosking foaming at the mouth at night. In between we have mainstream newspapers that effectively have Steven Joyce on the editorial board.

We have a user pays Generation with no political compass  being asked to vote on issues that they and the wider public have zero idea about because our mainstream media are more focused on Real Housewives of fucking Auckland and Kim Kardashian getting robbed.

We have an electoral system that is built to stop poor people enrolling. I’ve pointed this out a thousand fucking times, the poor don’t want to be on an electoral roll because Government departments chasing them for debt and private debt collectors access it. Women escaping violent abuses because of our sky high domestic abuse stats don’t want their details made public and we have a Government who passed laws to stop prisoners from voting.

Add to all of this the simple fact that our local representatives have bugger all actual power, and we have a sick facade of a democracy incapable of doing anything other than empower the already rich and wealthy while the dispossessed become more and more disconnected, and that’s the exact way National voting NZers want it.

So let’s be honest about the perfect storm of ignorance, apathy and greed that underpin the current system.

So what are the solutions.

They are easy.

1: Lower the voting age to 16 alongside civics education classes in school to start the passion for democracy at a younger age. Taxation without representation is that most heinous of high crimes against citizens and taxing 16 and 17 year olds minus their right to say how that tax should be spent is worth expanding the franchise of democracy all on its own, minus the wider social good of connecting the next generation of voters into the responsibilities and rights of voting.

2: Allow any voter to go onto the unpublished electoral roll and make the process as easy as ticking a box. So many of our citizens are on the run from debt collectors or abusive spouses that they refuse to enroll so as to not be detected. Any NZer can go onto the unpublished roll but the Electoral Commission goes out of its way to demand all sorts of reasons for it to occur. If the end point is to make it as easy as possible for citizens to participate, stream lining this process and making it as easy as a box tick is a priority.

3: Make the date of the election a Wednesday and make it a public holiday. We complain so much in this country about not having a day we can celebrate as NZers because many people feel anxious about the conflict of Waitangi Day. Why not search for that which binds us and celebrate that? Election Day should be a celebration because we are one of the few privileged nations around the planet that allows political leadership to change hands minus violence and repression. Our exercising of the right to vote peacefully is celebration in itself and making it a mid week public holiday would do more for participation rates than any single thing the Justice and Electoral Select Committee review could endorse.

4: The National Party as part of their tough on crime posturing passed law stripping prisoners of their rights to vote. Removing a prisoner incarcerated for less than 3 years their ability to vote removes any connection a prisoner might have with civil society. The argument is that prisoners who are inside for less than 3 years should be able to vote because the decision of the election will impact them one way or another once they are released within the lifetime of that Government. Stripping prisoners of their right to vote puts us on the opposite side of the European Court of Human Rights who have argued against this type of prisoner flogging. Their argument is that incarceration doesn’t remove your human right to vote, and we should look to repeal such knee jerk legislation if we agree universal suffrage is a nobel endeavor.

5: Expand the civics course in schools to new citizen communities and make the course a compulsory part of becoming a NZer so that new migrants know their civic rights and responsibilities.We do our new citizens a terrible disservice by not extending any hand of welcome when they become NZers other than a certificate ceremony. How can we expect them to interact in civil society with all the autonomy citizens have if the history and cultural norms of our political establishment haven’t been explained?

Why won’t we adopt any of these measures? Because the system doesn’t want the poor being involved because that would spell an end to National and their corporate interests.

Online voting isn’t a solution, the ease with which they are hacked means any online voting would become immediately the target of 5 Eyes and rigged. All online voting will do is ensure John Key rules NZ forever (as long as he didn’t annoy the American’s).

This is apathy by design, anything less than the above solutions is mere posturing.


  1. True. The Right love low voter turnout. It means the vested interests and the moneyed blue-rinsers with an opinion on everything, all of whom habitually vote National, are the only ones dragging their carcasses to a voting booth. It couldn’t be more perfect if Key passed legislation forbidding the act of voting, unless that vote is cast for him.

    And this is why the disenfranchised shrug and say, “No one fucking listens to a word I have to say anyway, the odds are purposefully stacked against me, why the fuck should I bother? I’m staying home to get pissed and play Black Ops.” And the awful cycle of apathy, dysfunction and political manipulation continues unabated.

  2. Completely agree with you Bomber – about the reasons for the low voter turn outs and your solutions. I particularly like the idea of the Election Day public holiday, I think that’s brilliant (and yes, I am an employer!).

  3. Yep, very true, but what about the problem faced by the good people of places like Hastings, with a Mayor who has been, according to his billboards “Proven”.

    We still haven’t sent in our voting forms.
    Voting Paper return rate is at around 23 – 25%..for Napier and Hastings..and that’s after being poisoned by our local Council for goodness sakes.

    Last year we actually managed to hit the 50% mark.This was due to the prospect of local government amalgamation …we were upset at the prospect of being denied a ‘voice’.
    Ironically it would seem, given subsequent low voter turnout.

    But the truth is that this year, we are running around like headless chickens, due to a lack of viable options in the Mayoral Candidate boxes.
    Meantime voting for the councilors is dominated by only one issue..the damned Ruataniwha dam…an issue simply not on the radar for disengaged voters worrying about paying the rent or finding seasonal work.

    We need thoughts on not only “how to encourage voting”…but also how to encourage people with actual new ideas and vision, into a position where they have both the time, and importantly, the money, to present viable alternatives.

    Then maybe people will step out and vote.

    While on this topic, our local library had some posters on the wall, produced by the Electoral Commision, encouraging people to Vote, and to make sure they are actually on the Electoral roll.

    The posters featured ‘relatable’ models…white, trim, well dressed, uber confident baby-boomers.

    Sure, like that’s the demographics not voting.

    • I believe that a lot of voters don’t get voting forms for a couple of reasons. One is that people tend to be lazy about updating changes of address. The voting forms will be sent to the last registered address of each voter. If you are an owner-occupied rate payer you will almost certainly get a paper but non-ratepayers, particularly itinerant students may not because it might be delivered to the wrong address. Then it is up to the present occupier to return or redirect them and people are often very lazy about that too.
      Local body elections are seen, rightly or wrongly, by many as being inconsequential therefore a lot of people who don’t receive their voting papers never bother to chase it up.
      These factors combined with the general sleepy hobbit apathy that is synonymous with being a true Kiwi these days makes for a low turn out.

  4. The Electoral Commission says it is the fault of the local councils who needed to increase their activities using local communities communication’s /consultations that they have not been good at present with says the commission.


    Yes to that!!! as we see a lack of standard interest from local council’s in consulting with our communities all the time.

    This is very bad and endemic in HB/Gisborne, where we don’t get a say into water quality/ transport or town planning either and you saw the Havelock water crisis that was councils fault not ours!!!!

    Also we want to control our environment and local councils don’t give a toss about us all at present Martyn.

    Bloody good post there Martyn, at least we got to speak up about this finally.


    So more than being a problem of public apathy, is it “vote suppression”? That’s the argument of another political scientist, Bronwyn Hayward of the University of Canterbury, who explains why she thinks Christchurch is experiencing a decline in voting. She says that a number of factors combined are alienating people from the political process – see Jamie Small’s Christchurch ‘perfect storm’ for vote suppression, head of uni politics says.

    • I remember that the old version of the EC used to send around people to talk to the senior school students of colleges (that was when the voting age was 20 so none of them were actually eligible to vote) about the importance of voting and being politically connected.
      The EC’s mission statement of Nov 10, 2010 states (page 8) says one of its functions is “promoting public awareness of electoral matters through education and information programmes”.
      The information programmes seem almost exclusively to be based on the orange man and done on radio, TV, the internet and newspapers a few months before general elections. There is very little EC publicity about local body elections.
      The reason probably all boils down to money, as it always does under a National government. The government expects the EC to work on a shoestring budget just like any government department. The process of politics is not just what you see in the media and lets face it, if you think politics is what you see on the Paul Henry show or on Fairfax media then you have pretty distorted and inaccurate view of it all.
      Political knowledge is about face to face interraction with people – the politicians and the public. Good policy only comes about by people talking to each other face to face, not by emails or facebook or twitter. Policy by facebook and twitter is just contradiction and personal egos against personal egos, with little sense or substance.
      If we want people to become engaged with politics and the voting process we have to take it them, not wait for them to come to us because it won’t happen.
      However it is difficult to have any confidence about getting the disinterested to become the interested when we have a corrupt government that thrives on misinformation and a media that gleefully connives in its distribution.
      We need the EC to get serious about political engagement and to stand up to the National government and demand they take their recommendations seriously.

  5. “How can we expect them to interact in civil society with all the autonomy citizens have if the history and cultural norms of our political establishment haven’t been explained?”

    Maybe they could investigate it themselves like an adult?

  6. When people with social and environmental consciences who are aware where we are headed stand for office the corporate media conduct campaigns of sabotage geared to turning voters against them. I have seen (and experienced it) time and time again.

    Only completely useless trough-feeders who are already members of ‘the club’ and who advocate increased corporatism get the endorsement of the corporate media.

    Not voting is a form of protest, in recognition the fact that the whole electoral process is rigged. Indeed, it can be argued that the best thing voters can do to bring down the present corrupt system is to not participate. What credibility would an MP or a the mayor have if he/she acquired the position on the basis of a 15% turnout or a 5% turnout? 85% or 95% implicitly saying “Fuck off! We don’t want you!”

    The was the position Harry Duynhoven found himself in at the last election, where he gained a seat on the council on the basis of less than 4,000 votes in a district with 55,000 potential voters. Sure, he kept his snout in the public trough and continued to sabotage the district in much the same way that the did as an MP and mayor. But he has no mandate or credibility.

    Online voting is definitely not the answer. That would make the results even easier to rig than is already the case.

    As for lowering the voting age to 16, that’s not going to fix anything and could well make the situation worse because those with money and power will find it easy to influence gullible 16-year-olds.

    The only way the dreadful system can be fixed is for both candidates and voters to pass a knowledge and intelligence test before being allowed to participate: that would eliminate a vast number of voters who vote on the basis of looks or propaganda, and would eliminate the vast majority of sitting MPs, mayors and councilors and present candidates. So obviously the gang of trough-feeders with their snouts currently in the trough would never implement such a policy.

    Interestingly, I have recently been told by two people in the 70s that for the first time ever in their lives they will not vote in the local election because they now see the system as utterly rigged and see voting as a futile waste of time.

    Whether it was Mark Twain or someone else who said it, the sentiment has been around to a long time: If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.


    ‘A common complaint among residents of every country at election times is the feeling that their votes make no difference; that the powers-that-be will run affairs as they see fit, regardless of any input from the citizenry.’

    In fact numerous studies have confirmed this perception, that officialdom is completely impervious to public input.

    • Spot on Afewknowthetruth.

      But you and I the voter will never see the useless Corporate Media admit that it is the lack of inclusion of voters into the Council’s process was the main reason that turned almost 2/3rds of the voters off because they believe their vote will never make a difference because they planned it to be this way.

  7. I see a New Plymouth mayoral candidate is calling for democracy teaching to be part of the school curriculum.
    It is a great idea but there are a few problems with it. The first being that who will be teaching democracy? Teachers of course. Therein lies the second problem – who does the National government hate most after beneficiaries? Answer: teachers.
    Why do they hate teachers? 1. Because state education is the one public domain that National (as yet) hasn’t succeeded in either privatising, corrupting or infiltrating with their right-wing clown friends.
    (that is what Charter schools and bulk funding are designed to do but they have largely failed).
    2. National doesn’t actually want democracy taught because to National democracy means that people actually start thinking for themselves. When people start thinking for themselves National suffers and obviously they don’t like that.
    3. The kind of democracy that National would want to be taught would involve spinning our own system and how brilliant it is. Not mentioned would be how National prevented good and relevant changes to our electoral system as recommended by the Electoral Commission (remove coat tail provision and reduce the threshold). Not mentioned would be how National sacks democratically elected local body councils and replaces them with appointed handpicked right-wing mates under the excuse that the councils are “disfunctional”. ie. They don’t give farming bodies a free pass to plunder water resources and pollute our rivers.
    So yes, lets have democracy taught in schools but not just democracy – all types of government -communist, fascist, Stalinist, Maoist, Dictatorship etc, so students can judge for themselves and not be “groomed” by spin doctors such as Key, Steven Joyce and Fairfax media.
    What’s that noise?
    It must be Gosman, I’m Right and Mr See More puking down their loos at the very idea of kids being taught everything they need to know about politics.

  8. Agree with you Martyn they have purposely disenfranchised the poor. They have brought in too many immigrant that will probably vote for them.

  9. “Online voting isn’t a solution, the ease with which they are hacked means any online voting would become immediately the target of 5 Eyes and rigged.”

    I also agree that online voting is a not a silver bullet solution to increasing voter turnout. I also agree that the mechanisms Bomber describes are putting up avoidable barriers to participation in elections, and I agree with most of his proposed solutions. However, a few points about online voting.

    1) If we do decide to start using any kind of digital system in public elections, this must never depend on any software that is proprietary (where the code is secret and can’t be independently audited):
    * any digital system used in any public elections should be developed by suitably qualified fulltime employees of the Electoral Commission, who have been carefully screened for conflict of interest
    * the source code *must* be publicly available, for independent security auditing by any interested party
    * the process of compiling the code, and loading it into the server computers where it will be used in elections, must be open to rigorous scrutineering by programmers/ system administrators from any political party running in that election, just as polling booths can be scrutineered in the current system

    3) It’s now possible, and encouraged, to register online to vote in NZ elections and nobody is freaking out about this process being “hacked” (you mean cracked). If online registrations can done securely, why not online voting?

    4) A number of countries use online voting for major elections, including Switzerland and Estonia. Clearly, they think it can be done securely enough.

    5) The existence of the 5 Eyes doesn’t stop the entire banking system from being run across the internet, so why is it a show-stopper for online voting? Obviously, I agree the 5 Eyes are a concern, but they are a surveillance system, that AFAIK only works on unencrypted traffic. Since online voting would likely involved several layers of encryption, the computing power required to even see into the system, let alone alter its outcome, would be tremendous.

    6) If a secure online voting system could be put in place, it would make it cheap to hold referenda, and potentially create a system of deep democracy where we can actually participate in government all year round, instead of just turning up to elect temporary dictators every 3 years.

    • All very true and nice but you overlook the one major reason why online voting is essentially undemocratic:

      You cannot guarantee that 100% of the franchised voter base has access to it. You have immediately disenfranchised voters who have no access to digital technology.

      And the poor cannot afford a home computer…

      Also, in this age of housing shortages, how do you plan to give the vote to the homeless? You need an address to register as a voter…

      This anti-democracy is buried a lot deeper than might appear at first glance…

  10. But Martyn, what about the frontal lobes, MRIs, under 25s etc etc? By your taxation without representation reasoning, then it stands to reason that those who don’t pay tax don’t deserve representation. At the end of the day Auckland will end end up with another labourite as mayor, therefore more taxes, double digit rate increases less personal accountability.

    • But who doesn’t pay tax?.
      Lower income people and beneficiaries are actually paying tax on nearly all their money, as their entire pay packet will be spent, and on items taxed with the GST.

      • Using that same logic. My 5 year old son pays tax when I give him $20 for a toy. Therefore its criminal that he’s not able to vote.

        • That’s great parenting! Start dependency young! They’ll then graduate to another way to feed that unfulfilling place in their little soul(s)?

          Break the cycle now before its too late Off White!

  11. You are so right about voting on what would ordinarily be a working day. Let’s make voting day a none shop trading day too, allow bars and restaurants to open as these are places people meet to chat but not the malls etc.

    My boys like wearing my campaigning tshirts but on Sunday morning one of my neighbours tried to shame me about getting them started young. We need to get the young started with democratic socialism because consumer capitalism isn’t going to save the world

  12. Online voting isn’t a solution, the ease with which they are hacked means any online voting would become immediately the target of 5 Eyes and rigged. All online voting will do is ensure John Key rules NZ forever (as long as he didn’t annoy the American’s).

    And yet no one has successfully hacked the CIA, NSA, FBI, Mossad and probably a few dozen other online entities.

    The entities that do get hacked, and there are a few, are the ones not paying attention and ensuring that they’re up to date.

    Then think of the benefits of online voting:

    1. Easier to vote
    2. Can easily handle referenda making citizen participation in governance, local and national, possible
    3. It’s not the complete answer but it would certainly help increase voter turnout
    4. Would make it real easy for people to check how their vote was counted – something that can’t be done now

    And the whole reason why we have Representative Democracy rather than Participatory Democracy is so that the rich could maintain control. The rich were, and still are, absolutely terrified of the general populace actually governing. It’s also the reason, IMO, why we always hear of how bad it would be if governance was done by referenda.

    Keeping a small clique in power isn’t democracy.

  13. The problem with democracy in this country is letting brain dead National supporters vote and hold the rest to ransom.

    The left vote is split and a lot more would vote if there was a REAL alternative to the junta we have know.

    Martyn the ideas you have outlined are a step in the right direction but voting at 16 not sure about that one.

    How did Bernie Sanders bring out and entice young students and workers to join the” Feel the Bern” and build a nationwide campaign around a strong Socialist platform and his supporters feel enthusiastic enough to sign up and DONATE in the neo liberal heartland of all places.

    If a movement could be started here and be a real force the MSM would have to cover it, Shit i would love to see that happen and it really shake things up here and end the suffocation of this ant democratic dictatorship.

    Online voting is a serious danger and would allow National and its friends the opportunity to rigg the system without safe guards and steal every general election making them impossible to defeat…i would march and rigorously protest if they try to advance it and given another term who knows what they have planned to further erode civil liberties.

  14. The ONLY solution is a total REVOLUTION, throw the Council officers out of their skyscraper offices, throw the mayor out in front of an angry crowd of citizens, throw the PM out to the sharks, as that is what he is, a shark, let him fight for his survival with the other sharks out in the ocean.

    Lowering the voting age, and all such well meant ideas will change nothing, until people actually get informed about what really goes on, and what corruption really goes on, and that they have POWER to change things.

    First of all we must shut down all the commercial, private, corrupt media, the MSM, and re-establish a code and charter bound true public broadcasting system, also a legal platform written in law, that allows and enables community broadcasting and webstreaming and so for all community groups meeting basic democratic and other standards to operate.

    We must first of all inform people, and rattle cages, shake them out of their stupor, and if that does not happen, all the rest is just wishful thinking. Disown the elite, disown the establishment, disown the vested interest business parties and corporations, put people back into the centre of things, and then we may have a change.

    I cannot see this happen, as long as the Kardashians get more attention than Chloe Swarbrick or Penny Bright or others standing for mayor in Auckland, or others that may have things to say and share.

    We are screwed with the present media and administrative system, the whole system needs to be overhauled urgently, it serves corrupt interests, is dishonest, enables a national government to suffocate any dissent and alternative ideas.

    We live in a defacto dictatorship of vested interest holding elite players, in business, in government and so forth, throw that shit out and start from scratch, that is the ONLY solution, I fear.

    • Yes to all of that.

      We are living under a government of occupation. From the PM right down through central government bureaucracy, regional council bureaucracy and district/city council bureaucracy to the hospital boards- and the occupiers will continue to serve the interests of the occupiers instead of the common good until they can’t.

      When have, as we do, people with almost no qualifications and no moral compass being paid $300,000 or $400,000 a year as council CEOs, paid to lie continuously and wreck practically everything they touch, of course they are going to lie continuously and wreck practically everything they touch. The worse their performance [in terms of the common good] the more they are rewarded. The worse their performance, the more the corporate media cheerleads the dysfunction. it’s a self-perpetuating system.

      As long as the bulk of the populace can be bought off by cheap trinkets from China and mindless entertainment, as long as fuel is cheap and supermarket shelves and takeaways are well stocked with junk food, as long as interest rates and the money supply can be manipulated and people can be enticed to pay ludicrously high prices for third-rate properties, as long as the share markets can be propped up by central banks, as long as private contractors can keep the roads repaired and the water, sewage and electricity flowing, and as long as the bulk of the populace continues to believe in the system, the government of occupation is quite safe.

      It is when people are really suffering -actually dying of starvation and without hope- that revolutions erupt. At the moment obesity is a far bigger problem than starvation in most western nations. Therefore, no revolution and more of the same for a while longer.

  15. Come on Christchurch lead the way – Vote Minto for Mayor and show New Zealand what a REAL MAYOR should look like!

  16. Who is to blame for low voter turnout?
    The Local Government Commission.

    This is their role:
    The Local Government Commission is an independent body established by legislation.

    It is part of the independent machinery of government which helps to uphold the principles of the electoral system by providing or protecting:

    * fair and effective representation for individuals and communities;
    * reasonable and equal opportunities for voters and candidates; and
    * public confidence and understanding of electoral processes.

    “Public confidence and understanding of electoral processes” – there you have it.

    • And when you contact them and complain about the dreadful state of affairs in local government they say, “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do. That doesn’t fall within our jurisdiction.”

      All so-called watchdogs watch and dodge.

      The system works perfectly to ensure that communities and entire societies are driven straight off the cliff by overpaid incompetent fools and self-serving liars.

  17. On-line voting safe?
    I don’t even trust postal voting.
    Who knows whether the person named on the voting paper actually made the marks, or was it their spouse? or someone who pinched the envelope out of the mailbox? Can the vote counters tell? No they can’t.
    Postal voting essentially relies on old-fashioned Kiwi honesty.
    Good old fashioned Kiwi honesty died decades ago, I’m sorry.
    It certainly hasn’t risen any notches under the Key government.
    I don’t trust my vote to NZ Post, I take it into the council building and personally deposit it in the ballot box so there is no change of any bastard tampering with it before it gets there.
    On-line voting is an open invitation for electoral fraud.

  18. Martyn states …

    “We don’t want poor people voting, if they did, neoliberalism would never gain power again. This Government have purposely dumbed down media, we have Paul Henry foaming at the mouth in the morning and Mike Hosking foaming at the mouth at night. In between we have mainstream newspapers that effectively have Steven Joyce on the editorial board.”

    And there it is. The reason for a low voting turn out. Restricting a proportion of the country, that’s the low waged and the impoverished from casting a vote, keeps the return low, resulting in a win win situation for the right. Unemployment, homelessness, impoverishment, reliance on charities and the state to survive, gives power to the right! Disgraceful!

    In fact, impoverishment in NZ is the major growth industry, much to our shame!

    NZ needs a sharp social and economic shake up, starting with a purge of the present corrupt administration and its media lackeys, if the country is to move forward into a smart progressive future, where every Kiwi is valued and given a fair deal, enabling them to participate in the nation’s governance at both local body and central level. Having access to knowledge to decide is power and through social and economic inequality, a proportion of the population is being denied this, their impoverished situation being used as a tool to keep the status quo in business!

    The ball is in the people’s court to bring about change.

  19. I vote but ask myself why bother. The system as it is currently stands doesn’t work and no same old same old or newcomer is going to make something that already doesn’t work work any better.
    If voting helped the voter to actually achieve something better for the highest good of all …. voting would be banned.

  20. I will have one more go at posting on this topic. Get kids interested in politics. I had a teacher (who was a bit of a Leftie that at election time had the class run our own election with Mayor, policies and so on. Never forget this teacher and really gave the class an interest in politics. Encourage kids to read blogs like this censor the language but not the opinions.

  21. I like the solutions. I fear that solution 1. may not work in the current Secondary System. This is because it is overseen by the Ministry of Education which does the bidding of those in power. Also many teachers don’t themselves have a clue about civics, and not much interest. I am a teacher in a state secondary school.

  22. The system in Auckland with the huge booklet and 3 papers and 2 systems is far too complicated for even average readers to cope with. This is not to mention non readers and esol readers. The system is doomed to fail. People give up trying to understand, especially when they are ting to feed their families and somewhere to sleep the night

Comments are closed.