Under-30s slow to enrol to vote

Last updated 05:00 26/06/2014

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Almost one third of eligible voters under the age of 30 had yet to enrol to vote in September's General Election as of May 31. 

Data released this month by the Electoral Commission, using population figures from last year's census, estimates that just 71.9 per cent of New Zealand's eligible voters under the age of 30 were enrolled to vote on that date, compared to 94 per cent for eligible voters 30 or older.

According to the data, the Auckland Central electorate had the worst enrolment rate for under-30s, with just 38.79 per cent enrolled to vote.

Overall 89.17 per cent of eligible New Zealand voters were enrolled on May 31. The remaining 10.83 per cent equates to more than potential 367,000 voters who are yet to enrol.

(Having trouble viewing chart? click here)

In the 2011 election 192,000 New Zealanders failed to enrol to vote, despite it being a legal requirement.

On top of that a further 792,278 New Zealanders who were enrolled failed to turn up on polling day, as New Zealand recorded its worst general election turnout since 1887*, of just 74.2 per cent.

Once the 192,000 un-enrolled are taken into account the voter turnout as a proportion of the voting age population (VAP) falls to 69.83 per cent.

In all, almost one million of New Zealand's voting age population failed to vote.

And, if trends from the past three decades continue New Zealand can expect to hit the one-million non-voter mark in September's election.

Turnout at general elections has been on a gradual decline in New Zealand for the past 30 years.

It hit an all-time peak in 1984 when 93.7 per cent of enrolled voters turned out in an election which saw the Sir Robert Muldoon-led National Government ousted by David Lange's Labour party. However, since then it has not once increased for consecutive elections and has slowly trended down, before hitting a new low in 2011.

Prior to 1984 voter turnout had remained relatively steady about 90 per cent from the end of World War 2.

(Having trouble viewing chart? click here)

Decreasing voter turnout is not a phenomenon unique to New Zealand. In fact almost all of the OECD countries have experienced falling voter turnout since the 1980s.

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Only three of the current OECD member nations had a higher voter turnout in their most recent election, compared to their first post-1980 election.

(Having trouble viewing chart? click here)

By this measure New Zealand has the ninth biggest discrepancy of 17.23 per cent.

One OECD country that hasn't had such problems with voter turnout is Australia, where it is compulsory to vote in general elections. Since 1980 voter turnout has remained relatively steady between about 93 and 94 per cent.

However, turnout as a percentage of voting age population has trailed off slightly in recent years, decreasing to in 79.67 per cent in last year's election. 


(Having trouble viewing chart? click here)

* Turnout for the 1978 election is recorded as 69.2 per cent. However, this figure included a large number of outdated and duplicate entries. Once these are taken into account the turnout was 79.9 per cent.

- Stuff

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