E-voting has the edge on $50 bribe

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 11:00 05/07/2014

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E-voting would be a game changer for three-quarters of the Massey University students who told surveyors they did not vote at the last election.

It would be more attractive than a $50 bribe, which only half said would encourage them to vote.

The survey was conducted through the university's Politics Programme, asking almost 300 18-to-24-year-olds at the three campuses about their attitudes ahead of September's election.

Almost 80 per cent of those surveyed said they intended to vote but of those eligible to vote last time, 40 per cent did not actually get around to it.

Dr Damien Rogers, who analysed the responses, said it was clear there was a high level of technological literacy among the participants, and that online voting would suit them.

But Associate Professor Richard Shaw said it would be no silver bullet for reversing the declining trend in voter turnout.

The sample of well-educated students did not provide a meaningful insight into the hard core of New Zealand's one million non-voters.

He said encouraging young people to vote was a perennial issue.

"It takes time for them to work out that voting matters.

"But most of the people who don't vote are also poor, or under-educated, Asian, new immigrants, Maori and Pacific Island communities.

"It is scary the way in which turnout maps existing inequalities."

Shaw said it was encouraging that 85 per cent of participants thought voting mattered, and that there was a backlash against the idea of a cash incentive that turned voting into an ordinary commodity.

But the respondents did reflect a lack of confidence about their political knowledge, a sense that politics was not about them, and a loss of faith that politicians made the important decisions that affected them.

More than two-thirds did not know the name of their electorate, and nine out of 10 did not know the date for the election.

While young people in the sample group were likely to find out those answers well before September 20, the lack of knowledge represented a low baseline of lack of engagement.

Rogers said the danger of declining voter turnout would be if the people suffering most from social inequalities were no longer heard or represented and politicians saw no point in trying to represent people who did not vote.

"We are not there yet. It is not a crisis. But we will get there in time unless we do something."

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- Manawatu Standard

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