The Tuatapere Community Worker Support Trust recently hosted a Community Information Night. One of the presenters was from the Electoral Commission who shocked us with some of the historical statistics regarding voter registration and turnout. It is 40% for Tuatapere. Not to be outdone, it is also 40% for Riverton, Ohai-Nightcaps and other towns in Southland. Nationally it is 65%. As a result, Tuatapere has been selected as a pilot project to try and increase the number of registered youth voters (16-22 years).
Your vote does make a difference. Men and women have fought and died for the right to vote for everyone not just the propertied class. It took about a century, from the first Reform Bill in 1832 until 1921 for universal voting privileges to become law. The last great reform was the right for women to vote. The success of this political lobbying was the precursor of the foundation of the women's rights movement.
We tend to vote as our parents and family have done, without change. For some the vote is entrenched for the party that was in power when our family first arrived in this country. Some voters choose to align with the party that represents our historical social status. Here in New Zealand families and indeed townships are proud of their predictably consistent voting record. Therein lies the creation of a "safe" seat. Because the local election outcome seems to be predetermined voter apathy becomes a reality as we feel that our effort will not yield a meaningful result.
What would happen if a voter took some time to think a bit about national and regional issues, the reputation and abilities of those running for office in the riding and perhaps the need for change? You are not betraying your family history by voting for good government rather than maintaining a tradition.
Between now and election day become familiar with the candidates and the issues. Register for the election. When you vote be mindful that you are carrying on an historical legacy which began with the First Reform Bill of 1832. Remember those who fought for our democratic rights today. Vote smart but most importantly, VOTE.
– Graham Jones is the Tuatapere Community and Whanau Support Worker