Ok, let’s politely ignore the irony of Lizzie eye rolling herself over hot takes on Winston with her writing a hot take on the health of our democracy…
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.
…well, hold on.
Out of estimated eligible population of 3, 569, 830 we had 3, 298, 009 enrolled and actual voter turn out after Specials (which I’m guessing to be fair to Lizzie would have come out after her deadline for this column) actually went up…
..and as Bernard Hickey points out, there were a lot of advances in getting young people engaged this election…
The early figures suggest that enrolment rates among the young are higher.
Thornton said in the two weeks to September 17, numbers on the electoral roll increased by 44,361, a 55 percent increase on the same two week period before the last election in 2014 when 28,629 were added to the roll.
In that same two-week period, the number of 18-24 year olds on the roll increased by 9494, which was 43 percent higher than the 6668 who enrolled in the same period in 2014. In the 25-29 age group, it increased by 7397, which was 51 percent higher than the 4887 that enrolled in 2014.
…where I certainly agree with Lizzie is that youth disengagement in politics is dangerous, has long lasting impacts and makes social progress difficult.
I also agree that we should lower the voting age to 16 and teach civics. I would go further. Expand those civics courses to all new migrants in NZ as part of a process to gain citizenship and make the election day on a Wednesday every election and make that day a public holiday.
I’ve always believed that we need to celebrate the peaceful transfer of power by making the election day itself a middle of the week public holiday and turn our election process into a celebration of our democracy.
Those are progressive solutions that empower and celebrate our peaceful civic co-existance with one another. Imagine the family and community traditions you could build on a mid week public holiday, where everyone goes to the Polls in the morning and then celebrate with whanau as the results come in.
Imagine the power of that as a tradition and idea to value.
Lizzie’s suggestion that what we need to solve disengagement is compulsory voting with some type of punishment and police prosecution lodged against you seems like a solution to a problem that would only generate resentment rather than whole hearted embrace.
There really are very valid reasons why people don’t vote.
Some people don’t believe they are well informed enough to make a vote. Some people don’t vote because they don’t believe in the military industrial complex hegemonic structure of neoliberal power where Political Parties are mere puppets held by the same corporate puppet master. Some fear retribution by ex partners and so don’t enrol on the electoral roll so that they can’t be traced. Some fear the prying eyes of the big state. Some believe the earth is flat.
There are a thousand different reasons why you don’t vote, and every single one of them is valid because in a liberal progressive democracy like ours, freedom and agency is the very oxygen on which that liberal progressive democracy functions.
If you chose to not engage with the political process, it’s your right to have the agency to do that. I don’t think forcing people to have their say is a positive response to voter apathy.
‘Vote or else’ isn’t particularly inspirational is it?
Lizzie holds Australia up as some sort of example of what we should be because they have compulsory voting.
But what about the quality of that compulsory voting? A ‘donkey vote’ in Australia is where the voter simply ranks 1, 2, 3, 4. 5. 6 on their first 6 choices. Sure the person has voted, but they’ve simply voted numerically in order, that’s not a fucking vote, that’s an inbuilt bias towards anyone named Aardvark.
These ‘donkey votes’ are counted as informal votes, and in the 2013 election these informal votes amounted to almost 6% of the total vote!
Compulsion made people vote, but it didn’t make the quality of that democracy any better.
Something creative like a mid week public holiday as an election day to celebrate our democracy would engage where as I think compulsion would create resentment and a democracy needs hope to prosper, not punishment for refusing to engage.