There’s an election coming up in NZ on 23 September, but the very people most affected by this election will actually have the least to do with it. We’re talking about us.
At our last election in 2014, only 47% - less than half - of potential voters aged 18-29 actually voted. At the other end of life’s spectrum, almost 90% of those over 65 voted.
Now, who has to live longest with the decisions made by the government elected in September? Again, we’re talking about you (and me). A first time female voter this year will live on average another 66 years from 2017. The future should be your call, not the oldies (who have it all already).
Young people not bothering to vote is not just a Kiwi thing
Voting all over the world is more likely to be done by citizens who are older, richer, more educated, and more likely to be white compared to eligible non-voters. Young people, ethnic minorities, and the poor are generally underrepresented when the votes get counted.
Here’s the problem. If young people don’t vote, governments don’t get to hear and understand the many big issues we are struggling with. The result is young people get ignored and think their vote is both not important and is not needed. So they don’t bother.
And so the issues we have heading our way – paying for more education, finding a job, getting somewhere to live and so much more – simply don’t show up on politicians’ radar. Ever wonder why all the rules look like they are made by our parents and grandparents? That’s who the politicans are listening to.
Hey – things can change though
They did in the recent election in the UK. The Conservative government called an early election thinking they were home safe. Then the young vote showed up, encouraged by social activists like Billy Bragg, and changed the outcome completely. Younger voters were thought to come out worst when Britain leaves the European Union after Brexit, so they took some revenge it seems.
You bet it counts
And don’t believe that rubbish about your vote not counting. They all do. In the 2011 general election, current Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett held on to her seat in parliament by just 9 votes.
In New Zealand we get two votes, one for your local electorate candidate and one for the party you want to support. There are 64 general electorate seats and 7 Māori seats and if you are Māori you can choose to vote for a Māori seat or the general seat where you live but not both. The rest of the 120 or so Members of Parliament are based on the number of party votes each party gets.
Starts with getting on the roll to vote
So, if you are going to be 18 on September 23 this year, give voting a go. Start by having a think about how you want the future to look, what sort of country you want New Zealand to be. Then look at the policies each main party has to see if they are thinking the same way. You will need to enrol on the electoral roll and can do this on the Electoral Commission website. It’s a little complicated, but once you’re on the roll you just update for future voting.
Shortly Schoolleaver will offer a quick analysis of what the main parties are offering for young voters. Keep an eye out for this.
You can help change the future for us all
- It’s your vote, not your parents’, grandparents', teachers' or mates' vote. Plenty of politicans think you are still too young to vote at 18, too easily influenced. Prove them wrong.
- Voting gives you the chance to change things. If we don't vote older voters call all the shots.
- The voting process is archaic. You actually have to post in your vote or go along and physically fill the papers out. Maybe it’s because those old voters can’t get an online world. Let’s change that.
- We will be living with the outcome from this year’s election for the next 60 or more years. Start making it what you want it to be.
Alisha Parker juggles science studies with hospitality (read waitress),writing and laughing. While keen to vote, she worries she may actually start to enjoy politics.
The New Zealand Electoral Commission website (home of the Orange Man)
On The Fence – interactive information for first time voters
Design + Democracy – part of Massey’s College of Creative Arts
I Vote NZ – The Electoral Commission’s Facebook page