A new campaign to increase voter turnout at the 2016 Local Authority Elections
26 Jan 2016
Local Government New Zealand’s (LGNZ’s) new #Vote16NZ campaign encourages more Kiwis to get involved in the Local Authority Elections this October.
Local Authority Election turnout has been declining in many areas of New Zealand since the 1980s. LGNZ’s ten-month #Vote16NZ campaign, running until the 8 October polling date, aims to lift voter numbers above 50 per cent nationally for the first time since 1998.
The campaign also encourages citizens with strong leadership qualities and a passion for their community to consider standing as candidates themselves.
The #Vote16NZ campaign is based on domestic and international research about who is voting, who isn’t voting, why they aren’t voting and what will influence them to vote. Measures to build elector turnout will include a strong focus on younger voters.
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says local body voter turnout varies significantly across different age groups and geographic areas. LGNZ survey results have shown:
- The total national voter turnout for the 2013 election was 41.3 per cent.
- The highest voter turnout in 2010 was in the 70-plus age group (89 per cent) and lowest was in the 18-29 age group (34 per cent).
- Overall, metro and rural areas saw a five per cent decline in turn out between 2010 and 2013 while provincial electorates saw a three per cent decline.
- The main reasons people give for not voting is not knowing enough about the candidates (31 per cent), ‘forgot or left too late’ (24 per cent), ‘not interested’ or ‘too busy’ (each 14 per cent).
- A number of areas successfully lifted voting turnout in 2013. The biggest rise was Southland District (seven per cent). The biggest drop was Hurunui District (24 per cent).
- Wellington was the only Metro district to lift voter numbers in 2013 (two per cent). Auckland saw the largest drop (15 per cent).
New Zealand’s local body voter turnout is lower than a number of OECD countries with similar forms of government, including Ireland, Denmark and Norway – but it is still higher than Australia, England or Canada.
Mr Yule says in order to improve these statistics, the first step is to raise public awareness of the value of local government and the role it plays in the everyday lives of New Zealanders.
“Our aim is to grow citizens’ understanding of the breadth of services delivered each day by local governments across New Zealand, and the impact those services have on their everyday lives. By making that connection, we hope it inspires Kiwis to take a more proactive stance on the issues they care about in their communities,” says Mr Yule.
“Citizens can get involved by voting for their preferred candidate this October, and maybe even deciding to stand as a candidate themselves,” says Mr Yule.
Mr Yule says creating a larger pool of skilled candidates is another key step to improving local democracy and ensuring the value local government delivers to its communities remains high.
“Local government in New Zealand faces major challenges, from environmental issues to major infrastructure replacement, often in the face of demographic change. We need to ensure elected representatives have the abilities, training and diversity of skills to rise to these challenges,” says Mr Yule.
“Ultimately, how well local government performs impacts on how well communities and citizens prosper and succeed both now and into the future,” said Mr Yule.
Mr Yule said successful candidates would be provided with significant support. LGNZ provides elected members and council staff with governance training and guidance through itsEquiP professional development programme designed builds a consistent level of capability across the sector. EquiP partners with The Institute of Directors to deliver this service.
Mr Yule says the final step is ensuring voters have access to the information they need about candidates standing in their community and about the voting process, including when, where and how they can vote. This includes working with central government to implement an online voting option, among other initiatives. Eight councils are set to take part in an online voting trial for the Local Authority Elections this October.
“The research shows us there is a significant number of citizens who are interested in the process but don’t vote, or, who want to vote but say it’s too hard to find the information they need to make an informed decision. The #Vote16NZ campaign will address these issues,” said Mr Yule.
“In some cities, and for some citizens, the availability of an online voting option may increase the number of people who take part in local body elections,” said Mr Yule.
Mr Yule urges New Zealanders to find out more about what their local council is doing in their own community and how they can get involved and have their say in how to shape it.
“Democracy is both a privilege and a responsibility. By participating in the local government process and casting your vote you help ensure it rests on the right shoulders. Our goal is that, for the first time in nearly two decades, local government will be elected by a majority of New Zealanders,” said Mr Yule.