As soon as you see your voting papers in the mail – they are due between September 16 and 21 – rip them open, make your choice of candidate, vote and post.
Forgetting to vote or leaving it too late are top reasons for people failing to have their say in who runs the joint.
A quarter of people are in the ‘I forgot’ category, around a third feel they don’t know enough about the candidates and just over a tenth are “not interested” or “too busy”.
Voter turnout in local authority elections has generally been declining nationwide over the last quarter of a century. In 1989, 57% of eligible electors voted but by the last election in 2013 the figure was down to 41%.
In 2013 in the Waikato district the figure was lower still at 31.6%.
In Tamahere, the last time there was a contested election in the ward, in 2007, 37.5% of people voted. That was slightly above that year’s district-wide turnout of 35%.
In the current election there is, again, a contest in the Tamahere ward with two political newcomers, Aksel Jepsen and Donna Nichols, both with strong credentials, vying for the right to represent the area. History suggests that is a recipe for cutting through the malaise of a few more of us.
In addition, the outgoing Tamahere councillor Wally Hayes is going for broke – standing for mayor in an all or nothing bid to stay on the council but as top dog. That, too, may be worth a few more percentage points in the turnout stakes – if Tamahere locals decide to turn out for ‘their’ man of the last nine years.
At this week’s ‘meet the candidates’ event, which heard from the two Tamahere ward candidates and the five mayoral candidates, chairman Dallas Fisher had a message of his own.
“Vote,” he urged the audience of around 35. “Get your friends, neighbours and children to vote, too.”
In that plea Fisher echoed efforts nationwide to get people to engage with New Zealand’s democratic processes.
“Democracy is both a privilege and a responsibility. By participating in the local government process and casting your vote you help ensure it rests on the right shoulders,” said Local Government NZ President Lawrence Yule in January when he launched the umbrella organisation’s Vote16NZ campaign.
“Our goal is that, for the first time in nearly two decades, local government will be elected by a majority of New Zealanders.”
The local, ‘get out the vote’ initiative, VoteWaikato, has a similar message: “Voting is not just a right, it’s an opportunity to have your say on what’s important to you, your whanau and your community. This October 2016 is your chance to have a say on who represents your community and the Waikato district for the next three years.”
And a good start is: collect the mail (Sept 16-21), rip open those voting papers, make your candidate choice, vote, post.
That will ensure you’ll have had a say in what happens in our district over the next three years.