Labour says online voting, compulsory voting among options for low voter turnout

Labour has suggested that compulsory voting could help to tackle low turnout levels at local elections.
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Labour has suggested that compulsory voting could help to tackle low turnout levels at local elections.

Compulsory voting for local elections - with fines for those who don't have their say - is worth considering to tackle record low turnout, Labour says.

Fewer than 40 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in last weekend's local elections, leading to calls for action in order to reverse the downward trend.

Labour local government spokeswoman Meka Whaitiri said the Government needed to lead the way on a national strategy, looking at innovative ways to improve voter turnout.

Local Government Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said low turnout rates at last weekend's council elections were "obviously ...
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Local Government Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said low turnout rates at last weekend's council elections were "obviously disappointing".

The U-turn on trialling online voting at this year's elections due to security concerns was a disappointment, Whaitiri said.

READ MORE:
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"For them to pull it out of the air to say there were security problems is unfathomable - we've got more issues around people getting their ballots or not getting their ballots in their homes as security issues than online voting."

Whaitiri said people had told her they didn't know enough about the candidates, while politicians needed to better understand the reasons that many Kiwis didn't vote in local elections.

"Ultimately, we need to survey the punters, the voters, and say why didn't you participate?

"We're looking at a democracy deficit model in this country, we need to actually realise that local government have the mandate and the ownership of assets almost equivalent to central government, it's critical that we get a better system than what we've got."

She was interested in exploring Australia's compulsory voting model, where people are fined $20 if they don't vote.

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"I know Australia fines people that don't vote, and that idea has been floated, I'm keen to look at that to see how well that gets people to the polls at the end of the day."

'NO SILVER BULLET' FOR TURNOUT

AUT public policy expert Julienne Molineaux said there was "no silver bullet" to improving turnout, with many non-voters citing a lack of interest as the reason for their lack of participation.

Molineaux said councils needed to improve trust among their communities, while there needed to be greater diversity amongst candidates to reflect the population.

Local Government Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said the low turnout was "obviously a bit disappointing", and the Government was looking at how to improve it.

"It's the responsibility of councils to get those votes up...there's a number of ways to do that, but we're certainly here to help them."

Lotu-Iiga said the Government had taken up a number of recommendations from a 2013 select committee report following that year's local elections, while it wanted to improve communication with voters.

"Certainly it is about communicating better information, quality information to the voters - getting voters to understand what councils do on a daily basis, not just at election time, and that's what engaging with the community's about."

 - Stuff

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