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Accusations of Voter Apathy Misguided

15th October 2001

Accusations of Voter Apathy Misguided

Christiaan Briggs, a 25 year old who stood for Napier City Council, is not surprised by another low voter turnout for local body elections around the country.

“Accusations of voter apathy by some politicians is misguided frankly. How can eligible voters be expected to understand the importance of voting in local body elections when we don¹t even teach politics in our schools,” he said.

“I think there are a number of factors of fundamental importance causing low voter turnout, and number one is the fact that people just don¹t realise the extent to which local government affects their daily lives, especially people my age and younger.

“On top of this is the primitive voting system we use, which allows candidates to be elected without a clear mandate. This, coupled with low voter turnout, translates into candidates being elected by less than 25% of the eligible voters. A change to STV next term, which will allow voters to rank candidates, will be a positive move for all involved.

“I think another factor is that our current system does not allow people to vote for no one. This may sound strange but it makes it difficult to encourage people to vote if they don¹t think they¹ll like any of the candidates. People are far more likely to actually open the envelope in the first place if they know they don¹t *have* to vote for someone, and can still have their opinion recorded by sending in their ballot.

“And finally I think there¹s the lack of information coming through the media. I think candidates and journalists can split the blame for this. TV and newspapers should put far more resources into educating people about local government during the run up to an election. And all candidates should have comprehensive websites. When people realise what¹s involved I think they¹ll also realise how much influence they can have and just how exciting it is to live in such a free society.”

ENDS

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