Thursday, 13 November 2008

On voting in New Zealand

Somebody else's comments swiped directly from Daily Kos and No Right Turn:

Today I voted in the New Zealand general election. I did not have to queue. Instead, the whole process took less than five minutes: walk in, present my EasyVote card (a special ID issued by the Chief Electoral Office, to make it easy for them to cross me off on the roll), get a ballot, tick two spaces, and stick it in a box. At the end of it, they gave me a sticker. It was easy, quick, and painless. And comparing it with reports of American queuing for six hours to vote, have to ask: why do you make it so hard on yourselves?

One reason I've been given for the queues is that in some areas there was only a single polling place serving 15,000 people. This is astounding. My electorate has 49 polling places for 58,000 enrolled voters - or one for every 1,200 people (and I could have voted in any of them). Other electorates are similar. Where-ever there are people, or a school, we stick a polling booth. How hard can it be?

It gets better. I was actually travelling to Wellington today, and I could have voted in any of the polling places in any of the small towns I passed through on the way. It would have meant a trivial amount of extra fuss - booths only have rolls for their electorate, so it would have meant making a declaration that I was enrolled, and it would have meant a delay in counting my vote (as it would need to be checked against the electoral roll to see if it was valid), but it would not have been difficult. I would not have needed a form signed in triplicate in my own blood to prove that I couldn't vote any other way.

Because it is easy to vote (and our elections happen on a weekend, and there is a statutory requirement on employers to give people paid time off to vote), New Zealanders do. Our turnout last election was 81%. Our turnout this time might not be so high - it fluctuates - but should at least be in the high 70's. I compare this to the US turnout of 64%, and again ask: why do you make it so hard on yourselves?

I've described this in other threads when Americans were talking about how crap their system is. The only possible conclusion that can be drawn is simple - the elite, the politicians, especially the Republican Party, simply don't want people voting. Especially the people at the bottom of the pile. This is a sign of a country where democracy is seen as a matter of form rather than substance by the powerful.

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