Lizzy thinks forcing the disinterested people to vote will make a difference

Trends from the last few elections have shown a dwindling number of people voting in younger age groups, and they’re not suddenly voting when they get older.

Voting is habitual behaviour, and if you don’t get into the habit when you’re young, it’s statistically very unlikely you’ll hit 40 and suddenly develop a hankering to skip down to the ballot box.

Though the breakdown of voter demographics in this election hasn’t yet been released, it’s unlikely it will reveal any evidence of a significant and lasting reversal in our dismal youth voting statistics. As such, it’s time to start thinking about future-proofing our democratic tradition.

As I’m no stranger to controversy, I’m just going to come out and say it. I think it’s time that we talked about compulsory voting.

To me, voting is not simply a right, but a responsibility. If we enjoy the privilege of living in New Zealand, it is our responsibility as citizens to make sure that our nation is governed by the parties that truly represent the will of the people.

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.

It’s a valid enough view.   But we also have a responsibility to pay our taxes, or not to systematically defraud the social welfare system.  That doesn’t mean we have 100% compliance just because there is a law for it.  But let’s move along.  

Voting is one of the few things Australia does better than we do, and that really bugs me.

If you decide not to vote in Australia, you have to provide a good reason, or face a $20 fine or prosecution. As a result, 91 per cent of Australians had their say in the 2016 election.

Former Prime Ministers Jim Bolger, Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Mike Moore have all supported the idea of New Zealand following Australia’s lead and introducing compulsory voting, and indeed, more than 20 other countries around the world also have compulsory voting systems.

There are arguments against compulsory voting and perhaps the most compelling is the impact such a rule would have upon the Treaty-guaranteed right of Maori to assert tino rangatiratanga (absolute sovereignty).

While voting within a colonial system is not a perfect fit by any stretch of the imagination, imagine the impact Maori could have collectively if we became a significant and growing bloc of voters. Equally, however, there’s no reason why — if we followed the Australian model — a desire to assert tino rangatiratanga couldn’t be officially recognised as a valid reason to justify a decision not to vote.

I’m not saying that I think people should be forced to cast a vote for the sake of it if they don’t feel that they can support any of the parties or the candidates — voters should always have the option to “spoil” their votes.

I would imagine, however, that many would feel that if they had to go to the voting booth anyway, they may as well vote.

I have no idea what forcing people to vote will do other than create a whole lot of new cases for the Electoral Commission to refer to the Police and then the police will send them a letter saying they’ve been naughty.

Taken to the extreme, what is Lizzy proposing happens when they don’t vote?  A fine?  Prison time?  Has she considered the cost of implementing the oversight and administration of it?

And what is so hard to understand that people who didn’t vote are also voting.  They are disinterested.   That’s a valid stance to take also.  Lizzy wants those dragged to a voting booth and then make them do something.  Anything.

So apart from yet another gun to people’s head pointed by the state, will it actually produce a better outcome?

Australia does it better than New Zealand?   Would Lizzy like to tell me how many Prime Ministers Australia’s had over the last 9 years?


– Lizzy Marvelly, NZ Herald

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