It’s election season – time to get out and exercise our right to vote! You’ll probably be tired of the voting cliches, “young people are voting for their future”, “every vote counts” and “don’t vote, don’t complain” – so I won’t labour any of these points further. However, there are a few other things one should acknowledge regarding voting in the lead up to the 2023 General Election.
Firstly, if we look back at history, we see that the vote was not an accessible freedom that every citizen had the right and privilege to use. In 1852, the New Zealand Constitution Act (UK) created a General Assembly – an appointed Legislative Council and a House of Representatives elected every five years by only males aged over 21 who owned, leased or rented property of a certain value. In 1879 universal male suffrage was introduced and in 1893 all New Zealand women won the right to vote. It was much later down the track that Parliament reduced the voting age; in 1969 to 20 years of age, and in 1974 to 18.
We must not take for granted the journey we have been on as a nation. From only being able to vote if you are the owner of land worth at least £50, to a right that anyone over the age of 18 can enjoy, regardless of the size of your investment property portfolio or gender!
Secondly, did you know that youth are becoming more engaged? In the 2020 General election the official voter turnout was 82.2 percent, the highest since 1999, and the final enrolment rate was 94.1 percent, the highest since 2008.
However, the biggest gains in turnout was in the younger age groups. For the 18 to 24-year-old age group, 43,293 more voted in the 2020 election. Since 2014, the turnout of enrolled voters in this age group has increased 15.3 percent. The younger people are when they start voting, the more likely they are to be voters for life, which ensures the health and vitality of our democracy.
Thirdly, and on a more practical note, to the 8173 voters enrolled to vote between the ages of 18-29 years old in the Whangaparāoa electorate – and any non-enrolled voters (it’s not too late to enrol), the question is, do you feel well informed to cast your vote?
It can be easy to vote because of a family tradition or judge candidates based on the aesthetic design of their hoarding. However, it is important to be informed and know that the candidates and parties seeking representation care about the issues that matter to you.
On that note, you are warmly invited to a relaxed ‘Whangaparāoa Young Voters Meet the Candidates’ event on October 12, 7pm at Northern Union – everyone is welcome!
Finally, the upcoming general election is not just a democratic exercise, but an opportunity for young people to ensure their concerns are heard, their dreams are acknowledged, and their voices are part of the national conversation.
And perhaps it may sound a bit cliche, but voting is truly an act of care for our country and communities; a responsibility and a right we should never take for granted.