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Overseas Kiwis missing in enrolment push

23 September 2008

Media release
Ivan Moss, Chief Executive
Kea New Zealand

For immediate publication

Overseas Kiwis missing in enrolment push

Official figures claiming that only 250,000 Kiwi voters are not enrolled overlook probably half a million New Zealand citizens eligible to vote, says Kea New Zealand CEO Ivan Moss, commenting on data showing a 92% voter enrolment rate for the upcoming election.

"The number of missing voters is more like 750,000 - because the official figures do not take account of the estimated 500,000 eligible New Zealand voters who are overseas,” says Ivan Moss.

“When the entire eligible electorate is included, we estimate the enrolment rate becomes a mediocre 79%, not the 92% figure claimed.

Only about 10% of eligible New Zealanders overseas are enrolled to vote – officially 49,243 as of 10 September. “That is an improvement on the 43,000 who were enrolled for the 2005 election – but there are still hundreds of thousands of missing voters,” Ivan Moss says.

“It is hard to believe that ordinary New Zealanders can be comfortable with so many of their friends, family and fellow citizens being left out of the election and having no say in the future of the country. Almost every New Zealand family has at least one child, brother, sister, cousin or grandchild living overseas who intends to come home one day to live and work.

"Parliament has decided that any citizen who has been in the country in the last three years is entitled to vote – and it is strongly in the national interest for Kiwis abroad, who are generally well educated and successful ambassadors for our country, to remained engaged with New Zealand.”

Overseas voting is a bigger issue for New Zealand than for almost any other developed country because about 16% of our population lives overseas – the second highest proportion in the OECD.

Australia, by contrast, has only about 3% of its population living abroad and Australia’s enrolment rate is about 93%. So even if no Australians living overseas enrolled or voted, their overall enrolment rate is still a healthy 90% - compared to New Zealand’s 92% domestic enrolment rate falling to 79% when missing overseas Kiwi voters are included in the count.

“There may be as many as 7,000 missing voters in each of the 69 New Zealand electorates,” Ivan Moss says.

"Put another way, at the current rate eligible Kiwis overseas who don't vote would have the same impact as if no-one except Christchurch residents voted in the whole of the South Island – or if the entire Wellington region didn’t vote."

In the last election, just 28,000 Kiwis overseas voted out of an estimated 500,000 who were eligible.

"It would not be tolerated if this many Kiwis were disenfranchised in any other sector of the community. High-profile official campaigns target, for example, the estimated 110,000 young voters who are not enrolled.

“Kea New Zealand's modest efforts with its Every Vote Counts campaign (www.everyvotecounts.co.nz) show that New Zealanders overseas are keen to vote,” he said.

Every Vote Counts, launched on 25 August, has coincided with an extra 2,750 overseas enrolments each week – comprising both new enrolments and overseas voters ensuring their details are up to date. A survey among Kea New Zealand’s overseas membership showed that up to 90% of Kiwis abroad may be eligible to vote, and that the vast majority of them want to vote.

“Our Every Vote Counts campaign will continue to reach out to New Zealanders overseas between now and the November election. We urge all New Zealanders to tell their friends and relatives overseas about www.everyvotecounts.co.nz.”

Kea New Zealand (www.keanewzealand.com) is an independent, non-government, non-profit Incorporated Society dedicated to encouraging overseas New Zealanders to maintain and deepen their connections with home.

The Every Vote Counts campaign is strictly non-partisan, and does not advocate that overseas New Zealanders vote for any particular political party or candidate, nor hold or act on any particular political opinion. No public funds are being used to support Every Vote Counts.


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