“..with the stroke of a pen in a box; it is one way we share power.”
What’s in a Vote?
First published in The Wanaka App on Sunday, 28th of May 2017.
Voter turnout for local body elections is rarely more than fifty percent, including for mayoral elections, district councils, city councils and community boards. And our General Election turnout has also continued to decline since Robert Muldoon’s snap election in 1984, when David Lange won and voter turnout was at 93.7%.This century, we’ve had five General Elections and, Helen Clark’s win in 2005 aside, voter turnout has fallen below eighty percent.
These statistics are “social indicators”, measures that describe the well-being of individuals or communities; civic freedoms are the cornerstone of a healthy political system, and having people participate in these processes increases a community’s well-being.
Here in Otago, Michael Laws won his Dunstan Constituency seat on the Otago Regional Council by just five votes. Five more people voted for Michael Laws than for his opponent. Five votes gave power and a position to one person over another. Except in the United States, where President Trump didn’t win the popular vote, or in particularly corrupt nations, do not say that one vote does not count – in the Dunstan Constituency, it certainly did. And is for a Dunstan Constituency seat that we have one of our by-elections, with Ella Lawton and Gary Kelliher the two candidates.
A choice between candidates is a choice between courses of action, between particular visions and directions, between people with varying potential. One question I ask when voting is, “Each candidate has the potential for what?” I always hope I’ve made the right choice, as a vote carries power. My vote is me giving power to someone, and to that person’s ambitions and aspirations. My values therefore should align with those of the candidate that best demonstrates my hopes for my nation and community’s future. We vote to potentially create a better world.By not voting, the danger is we recreate the legacies we no longer want.
A vote becomes an expression of an opinion, of ideals, of a vision and of hope; voting is a choice, and do question what have we if we have no choice. By voting, we also declare ourselves as a part of a system, our system, where power is vested in the people who freely elect representatives.
Major referendums and elections overseas have more than clearly demonstrated the importance of voting. Most recently, France escaped being led by Marine Le Pen and her National Front Party, defined by its ethno-nationalism. Voters prevented that outcome and the new French President Emmanuel Macron has now named half of his cabinet as women, a mighty Trudeau-esque move contributing to the diversity we need for working democracies.
Consider what is happening in the UK as they head into another General Election, where a potential eight million women may not vote and 57% of young people aged 18-24 didn’t vote in the 2015 General Election. The problem is having a low voter turnout doesn’t make for a fair representation of opinion or a healthy democracy.
The Brexit referendum had a higher youth turnout than for the General Election, with an estimated 64% of registered voters turning up, most voting to remain in the EU. Comparatively, 90% of over 65’s voted, and a majority voted to leave. What would have been the outcome had everyone participated?
(Since UK’s last General Election registration to vote by youth there continue to rise – and do not for a second think that it is New Zealand youth who are failing to use their vote, it’s not that simple. * )
“..with the stroke of a pen in a box; it is one way we share power.”
As citizens, the fundamental ability to change our political structures and the outcomes they produce is in our hands, with the stroke of a pen in a box; it is one way we share power. By voting, we participate in constructing an evolving system and the nature of our system changes with the environment we provide. It is easy to see governments and governing bodies as having increasingly limited power with corporate interests gaining a bigger foothold, but let’s continue to seek a real democracy, a truly untrodden road. Alienated citizens don’t thrive where politics aren’t inclusive, which is why we need to rekindle our interest and maintain control of a system of government which belongs to the people.
What would society look like if democracy had its best foot forward? Perhaps voters would be willing, able, informed and uncoerced at elections throughout the world. Perhaps governments would be much more diverse, saturated with the many colours and patterns humanity weaves, and perhaps woven, this rich fabric would find common ground. Ode to the potential.
I was warmed of late to read the enlivening words of Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult urging voters to participate in upcoming elections. The fact that our mayor is urging our district to engage in politics is encouraging, as one of the dangers for any representative system is a disconnect between leaders and the people on the ground. If people at the top are not engaged with the communities they represent, we can expect poor outcomes for the future. I recommend you read QLDC mayor Jim Boult’s message – he talks of diversity, the importance of choice, a strong representative voice and a vote that counts. I wish all our leaders did more to support civic participation and help the people lead through exercising our fundamental rights.
As we slide into unchartered territory with water security, biodiversity stability and economic diversity being just a few of the massive issues we have at a serious crossroads, it’s important to pay attention, as the future will provide its own challenges to further generations and our participation today enacts upon the world of tomorrow. We must ask ourselves when voting, “what position do future generations inherit to enact change and live fulfilled lives?”
Kua roa kē te wā e pōti ana ētahi tāngata – some people have had the vote for a long time, and we know it’s black and white, there is no grey on election day. Let’s not lay idle, let’s continue to vote – for now.
Be sure you are registered to vote and that your information is up to date. The process couldn’t be easier: go to the Electoral Commission’s website (click on MORE below); or fill out a form at your local post shop; or free phone 0800 ENROL NOW (0800 367 656); or text 3676 with your name and address (it’s free).
For a healthy democracy there must be a conversation between those that govern & those that are governed. When there is a disconnect, democracy fails.
Below is a link to a document which contains the contact details of candidates for the September 2017 General Election in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The document gives links to contact candidates via traditional & modern forms of communication and has links to information on each candidate.
Please feel free to download the information, print or share.
Use of the list by any group or organisation is welcome.
The list has been compiled by Weaving House to assist our candidates and political parties in being easily accessible to the general public – as for democracy to work, it must be accessible.
The document was put together to further enable the conversation between voters and those we share power with – as by voting we give power to the candidate we select.
Below are the contact details for Political Parties taking part in this years General Election. Please find information for Independent candidates in the Candidates document.
“Members of Parliament are your representatives in Parliament.” – There are many ways to contact them and post is still free. The following is a link is to New Zealand Parliament which will offer you further suggestions for contacting Members and Ministers.
Weaving House works to help create a diverse representative systems and to have more Women obtain seats within our government.
Below is a list of Women Candidates running in this years General Election. Find their contact details in the Candidate’s Contact list at the very top of this page.
The following is a link to Associate Professor Jennifer Curtin speaking at our 2016 Convention on ‘Making New Zealand Parliament a Parliament for Women.’
The details in each document were obtained from public sources, either from Party websites or candidates biographies. These lists were created to co-exist with the information the political parties provide individually.
The candidates list is mostly complete, we await the political parties to further update their information.As you are aware, this years General Election is so far defined by a great deal of reshuffling within the parties – The Weaving House will check regularly and update as required.
Feel free to comment or if you are a candidate please email with further or updated information. If something or someone has been missed, please contact via – firstname.lastname@example.org
All information given is to the best of knowledge & collated as a community service.
Women Everywhere Always Vote at Elections
Can we find our nation on one page? With the many colour and pattern of our weave hopefully we can have a conversation to take us there.