North Taranaki Midweek
The real reasons people didn’t vote
After an abysmal voter turnout for the local government elections, new research shows that confusion about candidates and their policies was the main barrier to voting. A new poll asking what stopped people from voting has revealed that one in 10 nonvoters didn’t receive their voting papers, and about a third had no clue who the candidates were and said they didn’t have enough information about policies. At this year’s local government elections, held in October, fewer than 40% of eligible voters cast their votes. This low turnout, especially in urban areas, continued an ongoing trend of declining participation in local democracy. A Horizon Research poll following the election found that the main barrier to voting was a lack of information and understanding about candidates and council policies. The poll, shared exclusively with Stuff, found a third of people who didn’t vote said: ‘‘I don’t know anything about the candidates’’. The other top reasons for not voting were a lack of accessible information about policies and general confusion about the candidates. The poll revealed 16% of non-voters said they did not know when they needed to vote, and 11% said their voting papers never arrived. Horizon principal Graeme Colman said these findings should push authorities and local and central government to back programmes to fix this information barrier. ‘‘10% say they weren’t registered, and 18% say they forgot – so someone needed to remind them. ‘‘For 11% of people, they didn’t know when to mail the ballots,’’ he said. ‘‘Then you’ve got apathy. ‘‘There’s no civics campaign or education teaching people why democracy is important, and how local government impacts just about everything they do as soon as they take the rubbish bin to the gate.’’ While some people said they had issues accessing post boxes or finding information, 13% of non-voters admitted they just ‘‘can’t be bothered voting’’. About 3000 people stood for local office at the October elections, creating a deluge of information which respondents said was difficult to sort through. Colman said there were regions, such as Whanganui and Rotorua, where a hotly contested and well communicated local election led to higher engagement. The entire local government system is currently under review. A draft report from the Future for Local Government Review called for a raft of changes to restore participation in local government, including lowering the voting age and better engaging with communities such as Māori. Postal voting also caused issues for some. A majority of the 1151 people polled said they would like to vote online. Asked what their preferred method of voting was, 55% said online voting and 44% said postal voting. About a third of people said polling stations were also a good idea. Respondents were able to select multiple options. Although polling stations were the least preferred option, it was considered to be the most secure way to vote. Horizon said this research was conducted for public interest, rather than being commissioned by a client.