How many Kiwis turn out to vote in local body elections?

Last updated 07:25 26/07/2017

Low turnout at local body elections isn't a problem that can be solved just by "technical fixes".

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People in the provinces are more likely to cast their vote in local elections than residents of our bigger cities, and choosing the district mayor and district council gets the most traction at the ballot box.

However, around half the population that's eligible to vote in local elections decides not to.

At last year's local elections, turnout was less than 40 per cent in Auckland, Tauranga and Christchurch, and in Wellington it was marginally better at 45.5 per cent.

In contrast, in Nelson it was a bigger but still disappointing 52 per cent. Invercargill had the country's biggest turnout, with 54.9 per cent of Invercargill voters putting pen to paper, possibly as a reaction to a Christmas lights mix-up. 

Dr Bryce Edwards, a lecturer in politics at the University of Otago, said after last year's local elections that the low level of voter participation was "terrible".

It's not a problem that can be solved just by "technical fixes" like online voting or changing the voting period, he said.

"Those things are worth looking at and we do want to reduce all barriers to make it as easy as possible for people to vote. I'm not really sure the barriers are the problem at the moment. There's a deeper problem with how the system's working and with democracy."

The only way to really improve the situation is to start at the top, with the councillors.

"It's the way the political system works that needs to change. If the politicians themselves aren't offering anything inspiring enough, if they're not mobilising people, then that's the problem."

Involving political parties in the local election process might help to engage voters. Council candidates aligning with National, Labour, or the Greens, provided easy-to-understand "labels" for voters, he said.

"Standing on behalf of political parties, it gives a bit of a cue to voters that they know what they're standing for."

Learn more about the information shown above, and explore more charts, at Figure.NZ's site.

* Chart: Older Kiwi voters turn out in force, but what about our younger citizens?

* Why we didn't vote: How to fix low voter turnout at local body elections

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