by Holly Walker
Submissions close TOMORROW (Friday 4 May) for the Select Committee Inquiry into last year’s General Election. Details on how to make a submission are available on the parliament website.
While the inquiry will look into a number of areas (including the conduct of the MMP referendum and the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes), the issue that I believe needs to be focused on is voter turnout.
Last year’s election saw the lowest voter turnout in over 100 years. Only 74.2% of the New Zealanders who were enrolled to vote actually voted on Election Day. What this number doesn’t take in to account is the number of New Zealanders who could have voted (i.e. were eligible) but were not even enrolled. This takes voter turnout down to only 69.57%, a 6% drop from 2008).
Enrolment statistics show that 92.55% of the voting age population (VAP) were enrolled to vote on Election Day. When this is broken down by age, it shows that only 75% of 18-24 year olds were enrolled. That means that ¼ of 18-24 year olds in New Zealand were not enrolled to vote. This is a scary statistic and shows that we need to do a lot more to make sure that young people feel that they can and want to engage in the political process. It’s also concerning that for the first time, enrolment was very low in the 24-29 age bracket. This suggests to me that a trend is emerging where young people who don’t vote early develop a pattern of non-voting into adulthood. We can’t allow this trend to continue.
When submissions were first called, I blogged about this issue, and suggested options like online enrolment, and possibly online voting, need to be explored. I was pleased to see the Electoral Commission agreed in its report on the 2011 election yesterday – it’s just a shame that the Government has not granted them any resources to explore these options.
The Electoral Commission has recently released research on why some people didn’t vote. Over the weekend, Radio NZ also had an interesting piece looking at why people are not taking part in elections and what can be done to turn the trend around. I was quoted along with MPs from other parties, and most interestingly, non-voters themselves about what puts them off.
We need to have a real conversation about how we can turn this trend around and get more people participating in our democratic process, particularly young people. A good way for this conversation to start is for the MPs in the Select Committee to hear your concerns about this important issue.
Please, take the time to write in to the Select Committee and have your say.