Rocking the vote
Tuesday 27th May 2014
The voter turnout in the last New Zealand general election was 74.2 per cent – the lowest since 1887. It’s not known how many young people voted, but research after the election found that more young people didn’t vote than older voters.
In the US in the 2012 Presidential election – the ‘year of the youth vote’ – turnout was 52 per cent. And that was heralded as a large number compared to the turnout of young people in the 1990s.
If they don’t feel like the politicians or candidates are talking about them or their issues, they don’t feel like there’s anything at stake, they don’t show up.
Heather Smith, the president of the US organisation Rock the Vote, puts that down, in part, to activism encouraging young people to enrol to vote and to get involved.
She spoke to Radio New Zealand’s Kathryn Ryan, and says while turnout is declining in New Zealand, it’s still possible to turn that around.
She says voting is a habit, which means that if young people don’t vote now, it could mean they don't vote as middle-aged people and older people, which would have a massive effect on the country’s democracy.
“People are people. If they don’t feel like the politicians or candidates are talking about them or their issues, they don’t feel like there’s anything at stake, they don’t show up.”
“If they feel like it’s a done deal, and it’s not competitive and their vote won’t matter, why bother,” she asks. “And if they don’t understand the process and how it works, no one wants to feel dumb, they need to be educated about the process and why it matters.”
The Wireless will be kicking off a series of features on voting, issues, and the election next week. We’ll be looking at initiatives to encourage voter participation; why people do and don’t vote; and what issues the “Millennial generation” cares about this year. We’ll have data visualisations; interviews with new, young political candidates; and we’re also organising some live events.