Tuesday, December 12, 2023

OPINION: Time to up our voting game, Auckland

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I remember how the smallest mention of “chores” could send our household into a frenzy.

Firstly, the chore would be announced.

Moments later, the voting would begin.

We fought, we argued and we brought out every excuse in the book, but when it came time to vote, everyone participated until one sibling was inevitably nominated to do that particular chore.

Everyone participated because each one of us knew our opinion could make a significant difference to the outcome.

Yet, isn’t it interesting that when it comes to an issue of far greater importance – electing the leadership of our community – it’s clear we believe the opposite.

We believe our vote won’t make a difference, that we can’t sway the tide, and that our vote doesn’t count.

We seem to believe that our vote doesn’t hold any power to influence change, and when elections roll around, our deep-seated apathy becomes clearer than ever.

Let’s talk about the recent by-election for the Botany subdivision of the Howick Local Board, held on February 17.

Following the resignation of Lucy Schwaner in November, the by-election was estimated to cost up to $104,000, and encompassed Flat Bush, East Tamaki, East Tamaki Heights and Ormiston.

Of the 36,333 electors issued a voting document, only 8771 electors voted, placing participation levels at a shockingly low 24.14 per cent.

That’s less of a turnout than the October 2016 election, when 36.9 per cent of eligible voters in the Botany subdivision submitted their vote – the lowest of the three Howick Local Board subdivisions.

Mount Albert’s latest by-election proved a similar trend, when 13,715 votes came in for an area that has 45,865 enrolled voters, ranking voter turnout at a mere 29.9 per cent.

If these numbers aren’t indicating anything to you, allow me to elaborate.

We’ve got problems, Auckland – and this is one of them.

When it comes to electing our leaders, we can’t afford to sit back pretending democracy is a spectator sport, because it isn’t.

We may think politics is nothing but bickering, bad-mouthing and bureaucracy, but politicians and the decisions they make affect our everyday lives.

The people who sit on your local board affect your local beaches, playgrounds, parks, businesses, community events, services, bylaws and more.

It’s about time we started to value the opportunity we have to vote for who those people are.

When we choose to not vote because we don’t like the options, the chances of our favourite winning look slim, or we disagree with the reason behind the election itself, we forget that when some of us don’t play ball, we all lose out.

We forget that any team’s greatest strength is the participation of its players.

Now, this doesn’t mean we’re all going to agree, but it does mean that our vote counts toward us being represented.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”.

On Saturday, September 23, voting will take place for the general election, and with the opportunity to elect the ruling governing body of our nation for the next four years, I encourage you to talk with your vote, to participate, and to make your voice count for the team.

At the end of the day, we’re all in this together, so let’s vote like it.

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