Turnout of voters may be down on last election

By John Cousinsnews@bayofplentytimes co nz

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LITTLE change is expected in the current lineup of the Tauranga City Council if the lower turnout of voters continues until the close of voting at noon today.

Only people hand-delivering their votes to the council offices are left to influence the outcome of the election which, based on previous election patterns, looks like barely topping 40 per cent.

Votes cast up to the end of Thursday had reached 32 per cent of the nearly 85,000 voting packs sent out.

Based on average returns for the last one-and-a-half days of voting in the three previous elections, the vote will barely reach 40 per cent by the time all the votes are counted later today.

The best scenario based on previous voting trends is that it will reach 41.5 per cent - down from 2010's 43.6 per cent.

The only certain change in the current council lineup is that one of the five incumbents going for the four at-large seats will not be elected.

This is because councillor Larry Baldock switched from the Otumoetai/Pyes Pa Ward purely to squeeze out one of the current four at-large councillors.

He was taking particular aim at councillors Murray Guy and Rick Curach although the voter fallout could extend to himself and the other at-large incumbent candidates Bill Faulkner and Tony Christiansen.

Canterbury University senior political science lecturer Bronwyn Hayward said that in the scenario of lower returns, most people left office rather than being voted out.

She said the reasons for the lower turnout went a lot deeper than voter apathy. A big factor was social inequality and the fact that local government was being made less empowering.

Law changes were making local government further removed from community concerns, and the more councils returned to basics the less likely it was that younger people would be enticed to vote, she said.

Income levels and social inequality also had a big influence on why people voted.

The growing inequality gap meant more people were renting and it was this group who were less inclined to vote because they felt they had less of a stake in the community.

Ms Hayward said the people who were hard to reach were the young and those who moved around.

Councils were not making decisions that affected their lives.

Homes, job security and the quality of the local living environment were areas that local councils could improve on but were being made more restrictive by law changes.

She said voter turnout was high at 79 per cent among non-resident ratepayers - the affluent landowners who owned baches but lived elsewhere.

Another political scientist said a lower turnout accentuated the pattern in which the people most likely to vote were older ratepayers who were more likely to support candidates who campaigned on rate control agendas.

Young people and those in lower socio-economic groups were less likely to vote.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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