Macindoe on the turnout

January 5th, 2012 at 3:05 pm by David Farrar

Daniel Adams at Stuff reports:

A Waikato MP leading an inquiry into November’s general election says young people are turned off by politics and do not care how they are governed, or by whom.

Hamilton West MP , newly elected chairman of Parliament’s justice and electoral select committee, expects to be tasked with confronting the election’s poor voter turnout.

Final election results showed only 74 per cent of eligible voters had their say, down from 79 per cent in 2008, prompting Green Party calls to modernise the electoral process by allowing online registration and voting to attract young and Maori voters. …

He believed concerns over voter turnout would be among the terms of reference for one of its first items of business – its regular inquiry into the last general election.

“I suspect there were fewer young people engaged in the political process than ever before.

“To a large extent the biggest question is why such large numbers of young people have no interest in how they are governed, and who governs them,” he said. was almost certainly the next natural evolution of the electoral process, but there was no single answer and underpinning the issue was widespread disinterest.

Tim is right that online voting is a natural evolution, but no silver bullet will help increase turnout.

Rodney Hide as Local Govt Minister signed off on a possible trial of online voting for the 2013 local body elections, and a number of local bodies are working with Local Government Online to try and do a trial for 2013.

However I get the impression that central Government bureaucrats are less than enthused, and roadblocks are being constructed.

It would be very useful if the new Justice and Local Government Ministers made it very clear to officials they want a trial for the 2013 local body elections to occur. If we can trial online voting (as an option) in 2013, then it could be rolled out to all areas for 2016 local body elections and then extended to national elections in 2017.

25 Responses to “Macindoe on the turnout”

  1. PaulL (6,116 comments) says:

    My view here (as someone who didn’t vote this year) is that the actual registration on the electoral roll is harder than it needs to be. It relies heavily on the post – someone sends out a document, someone signs it and says “yes, still me”. If you don’t get that document (you’ve changed address), it’s harder than it needs to be to update your address. That was the barrier that ultimately meant I didn’t vote.

    If I had registered there was a way I could reasonably easily vote online / download the form and mail it back.

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  2. Scott Chris (8,155 comments) says:

    Easiest way to target the young is with money.

    Pay everyone aged 18-30 $30 to vote.

    Would cost around 20 million, which they’d piss back into the economy the next day.

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  3. cha (6,249 comments) says:

    Has Paul Weyrich’s wish comes true?.

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  4. Will de Cleene (470 comments) says:

    I doubt that e-voting would increase turnout. I worked on the last Census in 2006, the first to include an online option. My meshblocks were in a reasonably computer literate part of town (Aro Valley) but sweet FA people used the online option. It would have been good to compare with electronic turnout to last year’s Census, but that was delayed. Some hard data before spending big gobs of cash on virtual voting would be good.

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  5. BlairM (2,768 comments) says:

    I am opposed to any effort to encourage more people to vote. I think very hard about my vote and it is cast with intelligence and thorough consideration of the issues. I think it is disgusting that my vote has equal value to that of someone coerced into voting by social or other pressures, and who may have given it three seconds thought in the booth. To my mind, the fewer people who vote, the better for me, and the more valuable my own vote is in deciding an election.

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  6. side show bob (3,480 comments) says:

    “young people are turned off by politics and do not care how they are governed, or by whom” . I sometimes think who can blame them, I have the same feelings myself on the odd occasions. We have very little variation between right and left parties these days and the current party seems intent on pushing the same shit the last lot brought down on us. Referendum are but a mare annoyance to the politicians and the overwhelming feelings of the vast majority are totally ignored, why the fuck would you vote.

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  7. s.russell (2,122 comments) says:

    I have to sympathise with BlairM,
    I used to think a high turnout was a good thing and we should do all possible to encourage it. Now I realise that turnout is simply an indicator of people’s level or involvement and thought about politics. I wish that that was higher, but there is nothing to be gained (and a lot to lose) from encouraging votes from people who know nothing about politics and don’t actually care.

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  8. PaulL (6,116 comments) says:

    Depends if you’re on the left or right. I (perhaps unfairly) believe that people who don’t think deeply about politics, economics and government limitations/outcomes tend to vote left. Those who think a bit more deeply vote right. So, pushing higher turnout just pushes higher left wing vote.

    The stereotype I use to justify this position is that of the well meaning vote – I think we should have fewer poor people, so I vote for an increase in the minimum wage. Those who think a bit deeper realise that increasing the minimum wage creates more poor people, not fewer (it pushes people out of work), and that what we need to do is increase our productivity, which tends to be more a right wing thing.

    I do realise that some people who think a lot about politics do lean left, I can only assume that it’s because they aren’t very smart, so despite thinking a lot, they’re not thinking deeply. 🙂

    In my hypothesis, the chain is: non-voter + bothering to turn up = left wing voter. Left wing voter + thinking = right wing voter. Therefore, from a right wing perspective, we shouldn’t be focusing on turning non-voters into left wing voters by just getting them in the door, we need to focus on turning non-voters and left wing voters into right wing voters by getting them to actually think.

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  9. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    I agree with s.russell. I don’t want the feckless, ignorant no-hopers to be voting in increasing numbers. (Ok, not all non-voters will be in that category, but many of them will be.)
    I also agree with PaulL. I’m sure that most non-voters would be apathetic lefties, so I’m more than happy for them to stay apathetic and far away from the ballot-box.

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  10. Simon Lyall (111 comments) says:

    Well my assumption would have been that the low turnout was due to left-leaning young voters thinking that National was certain to win, National wasn’t that bad and not being very inspired by Labour. If the contest had been a lot closer then the turnout and enrollment would have been higher.

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  11. JamesS (352 comments) says:

    I am with BlairM on this one; the last thing we need is more people voting because they may vote for a Labour government!

    A lot of mindless idiots may elect some dirty, filthy, immoral, socialist interlopers as the government and the resulting havoc; what would be best is to go the opposite way and disenfranchise everybody not living in an electorate with a National MP.

    Better still, let’s reduce those allowed to vote to the levels before the 1832 Reform Act so National will permanently be in government.

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  12. PaulL (6,116 comments) says:

    Of course, to put a different spin on it, if you change the voting population, you also tend to shift the centre of political mass. If you did as JamesS suggests (tongue in cheek I think), it would just result in Labour and National both moving to the right – we still have a mostly two party system, and the two parties must by definition straddle the centre line. Don’t be expecting a permanent National govt, rather a Labour party that moves to the right.

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  13. tas (892 comments) says:

    I am absolutely against electronic voting. No system has ever been designed that is satisfactory in terms of security and transparency. There are fundamental problems that I cannot see how to address. It only has a place in elections that don’t matter (such as local body elections?).

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  14. Paul1 (33 comments) says:

    The vast majority of New Zealanders live within ten minutes walk of a polling booth. If they are simply too lazy to vote then that is their problem. There is no cure or solution for apathy.

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  15. tas (892 comments) says:

    Well said s.russell. Coercing more people into voting is treating the symptom, not the cause. Consistently low turnout indicates a failing political system and that is what should be addressed. Turnout was low this time because the opposition was balls—that needs to be fixed.

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  16. tas (892 comments) says:

    Oh. And yes, registering needs to be made easier. I found it unnecessarily troublesome and I can imagine why some people would give up.

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  17. tristanb (1,136 comments) says:

    Why should someone be pushed to vote if they don’t give a fuck? Good on them for doing something else for their day.

    It’s important everyone has the opportunity to vote, but if the incentive isn’t enough to get someone to get up in the morning and go for a 500 metre walk to the booth every three years, then they obviously don’t care.

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  18. Sonny Blount (2,044 comments) says:

    The low turnout was more likely to be National voters that didn’t think their votes were needed. People are motivated to vote when they want someone turfed out.

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  19. Chris2 (924 comments) says:

    “young people are turned off by politics and do not care how they are governed, or by whom” .

    This is just utter nonsense. Every election sees the average age of MP’s drop.

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  20. SHG (429 comments) says:

    When you’re a young tech-savvy voter and you see Katrina Shanks on one side, and Clare Curran on the other, it’s hard to give a shit about the outcome of the election – the Internet environment that’s at the heart of your entire life is going to be governed by clueless idiots no matter what you do.

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  21. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    Non voters are not necessarily left leaning. The only person I spoke to who was not voting, when asked him who he would have voted for indicated National. When I asked why his explanation was that he had a feeling that JK was a good guy and a safe pair of hands for the economy and that was a good thing with all the worries in the global economy. He couldn’t really explain in policy terms why National would deliver a better government it was more a vague emotional/brand appeal.

    From what I’ve heard research tends to show that low voter turnout results in a more extreme political landscape (on both sides). The US is a good example – their current completely disfunctional congress including a strong tea party element and their no compromise approach is the result of a 42% voter turnout in the 2010 congressional elections. The Tea Party loons in their three corner hats and the Occupy Wall St mob with their drum circles both take their vote very seriously – ordinary Joe public struggles to care, but when they do vote it is normally for a middle of the road centrist candidate/party who is not threatening to do anything too radical in either direction.

    Online voting – Meh – I don’t know it’d make a massive difference. Although I’m all for more technology, especially to make the enrolment process easier. Elections did a study in the 2008 election on reminding people who had registered by text with a text message on election day – this increased turnout by 4.7% across the whole sample and 17% in areas with a low population density (because they might not have seen much in the way of hoardings and ads in the lead up and may live nowhere near a election station that would have signs on the day)

    I would like to see (theres no magic bullet but I think these would help):

    – A voluntary accord that all the key political parties sign up to on not running negative campaigns – it’s a huge turnoff for most people – Labour’s “Shhhh” ad was a good example of this kind of stuff.

    – A reform of the stupid MMP rules like the electorate exemption which make the election coverage focus disproportionately on strategic voting in certain seats not policy differences between parties.

    – Civics education in high schools – not political education, but an understanding of how our democracy works.

    – Reform of some of the more antiquated aspects of the political system even if it’s just the appearances. People calling each other “the right honourable member’ and swearing oaths of allegiance to the Queen rather than the country seems dumb. Rules banning heckling in the house would be good as well – just puts people off – most primary school classes operate according to a better set of house rules.

    – Treasury to fully cost the policies of all the parties so we have a flat playing field to discuss the value judgements around different policy options rather than endless ‘he said/she said’ debates.

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  22. kiwi in america (2,707 comments) says:

    Declining voter turnout is a 1st world democracy phenomenon the world over and can be partly explained by people’s increasingly busy lives and there being so many entertainment and media options. It is partly a symptom of relative prosperity as populations who are comfortably off (as almost all are by international standards in 1st world economies) are less motivated to want to use the political system to affect change that improves their standard of living. These trends are particularly prevalent amongst the young which is where the turnout is the lowest.

    The 2011 General Election was complicated by the widespread preception that National was going to win and this was further complicated by such poor polling by Labour. Less committed National voters didn’t vote because they figured John Key didn’t need their help and some usual Labour voters were depressed by the pratfalls of their leader and front bench and the sense that their vote was futile and woudln’t change the government. The Greens always over poll versus their actual vote because so many of their supporters are younger voters who tell pollsters they are Green voters but they never quite make it to the polls.

    On line voting I believe will help somewhat but the reluctance of legislatures to authorise this is due to sensitivity over security of ballots. With the current system there is a ballot paper that can always be recounted in the event of a Waitakere style judicial recount (or possible electoral petition). I think online enrolment is a must. It is done here in various US states and it has increased enrolment but not necessarily turnout.

    Turnout is so often politically driven – witness the left turning out in 2008 to elect Obama while the right stayed home and this trend reversed in the 2010 mid terms. The 2011 election in NZ did not have so many driving issues to fuel turnout and was less polarised than in the US because Labour and National are ideologically closer than the Democrats and Republicans (right now at least).

    Finally education is important – not just generic ‘get out to vote’ but civics and history of the franchise and how it was in many countries a hard fought for thing. There’s no excuse in NZ. Polling stations are easily accessible and rarely involves the lengthy queuing that is not uncommon in the US plus the time taken to vote is a nano second compared to the multiple offices and ballot initiatives that confront US voters. 5 mins in the booth here is the norm.

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  23. Brian Smaller (4,333 comments) says:

    I think that once every three years (and it may end up being every four years) having to drive or walk to a polling station is not a big ask. I am opposed to internet voting. the internet is for commenting on blogs and porn. If people don’t want to vote, that is their choice. I would not waste a single dollar trying to encourage them.

    Iin fact, what probably put young people off voting were the useless and terribly annoying adverts run prior to the campaign featuring an orange blob. (In this case I am not talking about any Labour party gingas but the adverts)

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  24. Pete George (24,828 comments) says:

    Richard29 at 3:23 am – very interesting and I tend to agree mostly at least with what you’re saying.

    There’s many reasons for low voter turnout. My own electorate, Dunedin North, has very low enrollment largely due (it’s presumed) to a very high proportion of young people dominated by a significant tertiary education sector.

    But media make a difference too – here the two comunity newspapers and local TV had good election coverage but the ODT almost completely ignored the local electorates, and national media aren’t interested in regional politics – one TV journalist told me Auckland is only interested in Benson-Pope type stories in the southern half of the country.

    If some people aren’t interested and don’t want to vote then so be it, I think we are better looking at improving the quality of informed votes rather than quantity of raw vote.

    The best way to get this to happen is for more people to make it happen, to get more poitically involved at a local level and encourage more involvement of others.

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  25. Paul Rain (47 comments) says:

    @RichardP “Non voters are not necessarily left leaning.”: This may be true, but it’s ridiculous to suggest that young non voters (who can be expected to mirror the preferences of left leaning young voters) are going to vote for rational policies. It is in the interests of those who can gain from redistribution from the successful to vote for such policies, whether they are young and getting their start in life, or old and failures. Policies which increase voter turnout can be expected to have the same deleterious effect on government policies as women’s suffrage has been demonstrated to have (though with less support for prohibition, obviously). Whether such policies are nice in some moral sense is irrelevant- they damage government economic policy, and thus have a harmful effect on society.

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