Every A.N.Z.A.C. Day when we mention what the date means to us, or why New Zealanders consider this to be the most important date on the calendar, we hear a litany of complaints about the boredom and the irrelevance of these elections. And when I consider what the alternatives are to being one of the better performing democracies post-British colonial era, I see a litany of good examples as to why people cannot be bothered voting.
I am quite sure it is not just myself who thinks that the local government elections this year are a complete bore. However as quite nondescript as they may appear, I recognize as I have since I became old enough to vote in 1998, that one of the greatest gifts a democracy gives is being to vote for whomever I wish without fear of reprisal. Sometimes a few votes is all the difference between one candidate or another winning their election race.
But the hard reality is, the electoral system has a major problem when only 1/2 of the eligible voting population actually bother to vote and 1 in every 10 eligible voters is not even enrolled. It is not about whether enrolling is difficult, as there are numerous methods for doing so – enrolling on line; contacting the Electoral Commission for an enrolment pack; being signed up on the spot by Electoral Commission volunteers or even doing it over the phone.
But that does not explain the apathy, the disengagement from doing ones civic duty. Part of the problem may be the emphasis that is (not)put on how students should view their place in society. This is partially an educational problem as well as a parenting issue. A parent has the first and foremost responsibility to ensure their children are raised to understand and abide by cultural standards. A teacher though, has the responsibility of imparting the more advanced education to his/her students and I have acknowledged elsewhere that there is a strong case introducing civics compulsorily at school – my personal preference is to incorporate it into a compulsory Legal Studies paper in Years 12 and 13.
Yet, we still do not have an explanation for why, having received the ballot papers, so many are reluctant to participate. It is because of peoples reluctance to vote that New Zealand is in this poorly managed situation. And that reluctance may turn into outright forgetfulness when one has to do a postal vote over three weeks. I am sure you, the reader, will have met someone who thinks they have not got the time or energy to read the candidates booklet with their blurbs, a photo of who they are, provided. It took me only a couple minutes to get through the blurbs.
Perhaps it is the very nature of the whole voting process that needs a kick in the pants. Stop and consider this; the postal delivery is increasingly unreliable with falling volumes of goods meaning an overhaul of how electoral voting papers are distributed. I cannot help but wonder how long it takes in the most isolated part of New Zealand to receive their mail from the Government.
Thus a strong case for changing the way people elect local government and District Health Board representatives exists. If it is combined with online voting that enables people to vote for candidates online using their New Zealand Passport number or their Driver License number as a unique identifier, I believe that a significantly larger number of people will vote in the future.