Hear no evidence see no evidence speak no…
It is difficult to say which is more egregious. The three mayors yearning for the good old days of single-day polling.
Or the mainstream media for being equally ill-informed and not pillorying them for their collective abject lack of evidence-based policy responses to yet another shameful local body turnout.
Mayor Bill Dalton, re-elected unopposed, favours a return to pre-postal voting days, and is reported to be at a loss as to why only one in four Napierites had voted by Wednesday. Another Hawke’s Bay mayor, who shall remain nameless until after midday todayCraig Little, mayor of Wairoa, re-elected with a provisional count of 1863 votes, and a margin of nearly half that—there is no justice!, in deference to pre-postal-voting-and-pre-internet-news-cycle laws, laments:
It’s a shame we don’t all go back to the old days.
What is a genuine shame, of course, in the world’s first democracy, is that ignorant old white men still dominate local body politics. It will be a profound travesty, but entirely to be anticipated, if a brace of young people fails to be elected today. Anticipated, because the steady decline in voter turnout is a global phenomenon, and one that will take more than a triennial wringing of hands to reverse—the body politic is a lumbering beast, slow to respond.
The constraint to change that is invariably used to justify inaction, is the associated cost. Online voting, for example, has the long-term potential to reduce polling costs, but the short-term cost could well be horrendous. Auckland Council, for example, has spent half the projected costs of the city’s rail link, which is currently a cool $2.5 billion, on information technology systems in six years. For that kind of money, an integrated system for all the local bodies in Aotearoa could have, in fact should have, been built—shared services, as opposed to forced amalgamations, is a proven way of reducing local-body costs.
There is, however, a local body turnout silver bullet that, simultaneously, slashes costs—concurrent elections. Local-body elections, worldwide, enjoy lower rates of turnout than general elections. It has been robustly demonstrated in the United States that holding elections concurrently rather than on separate years, drags up the participation levels in the poor cousin of electoral arenas—local body contests—whilst about halving the cost.
But returning to the three bright mayors, and their yearning for the good-old days:
In Auckland City, turnout doubled from 30 to 60 per cent when postal voting was introduced in 1986. It was mandatory for all New Zealand councils in 1989.
And, yes, turnout has fallen back to the same level, but that process has taken 30 years, and where some bright spark decided that returning to polling-booth voting and the supposed excitement that that would generate, and went through with it:
…Hutt City Council reverted to booth voting in 1992, turnout dropped from 46 percent in 1989 to just 26 per cent in 1992.
In the United States, permitting Sunday voting ahead of the archaic Tuesday election day is good for another 5–7 percentage points turnout. In Aotearoa, a fixed holidayised voting day—19 September, of course—Mondayised, and festivalised could produce an even bigger boost. Add this to the Mahurangi Magazine’s list of evidence-based turnout interventions, below.
The close brush with an unpopularly elected demagogue that the United States appears to have survivedspoke to soon, but the ‘unpopularly elected’ stands, should serve as a warning as to just how broken democracy is in the neoliberal era. But, ultimately, global warming will cost millions, if not billions, more lives than demagoguery ever could. And the young understand this far more acutely than the old.
Prey that many young people are elected today.