Eva is a regular columnist for NZME publications.

Eva Bradley: We need to tick the box

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If you don't vote, do you have the right to complain about the decisions made?
If you don't vote, do you have the right to complain about the decisions made?

I have a big question for you as you sit there enjoying your newspaper, but it's one that leads to an even bigger one. Firstly, did you vote?

Statistics indicate most people didn't and so if you are one of them I then have to ask: Do you feel bad about that?

Voting in local body elections officially closed at midday on Saturday. You will now be feeling one of three things: Satisfaction at having fulfilled your community obligation; guilt because you didn't quite get around to it; or a nonchalant indifference because you couldn't care less either way.

As I write I still have 48 hours up my sleeve to figure out which of the above categories I will fit into come deadline.

I'm on the unpublished roll, so I have to physically go into my local council to vote. Combined with being tied up on a three-day photo shoot means there's a high chance I'm going to fall firmly into the category of people I find most abhorrent: Those who fail to exercise their democratic rights.

In my local ward two weeks into the three-week voting period, less than 18 per cent of those eligible had voted. The final turnout nationally for our last local body elections in 2013 was 42 per cent - the lowest since a restructure of the voting system in 1989.

We are either highly satisfied with how our communities are being managed or highly indifferent.

Since no one is ever happy with how politicians run the show at any level, it's obvious to me that we have become so detached from what happens in our own back yard that ticking a few boxes has become too arduous.

This year a lot of blame is being put on the lack of progress implementing online voting. Despite wide support at council level, the Government vetoed a planned trial due to unresolved security risks.

But given that people the world over continue to risk their lives (and sometimes lose them) and others are denied the right to democracy, is the burden of dropping an envelope into the post box really such a monumental barrier?

As a nation we hold the proud honour of being the first in the world to give women the vote in 1893. Who could have foreseen that a little over a century later so many women would take that hard-won privilege for granted?

Admittedly, local body elections aren't quite as sexy as national ones (not that any competition involving John Key and Andrew Little could really be called ''sexy''). The issues are smaller, but on a personal level as voters they are more likely to affect our daily lives.

In my own local authority, the elected councilors will either support or veto a $900 million dam and agree or disagree about reinstating a railway line 50 metres from my front door. They are issues I claim to care greatly about, but if I don't vote can I really say that?

One thing I can't do is whinge about decisions I disagree with. That's something 60 per cent of us need to stop and think about because I'm pretty sure 100 per cent of us will complain at some point or another about what our local councils decide to do in the next three years.

It's too late to have swayed you if you're an apathetic voter, but in the past hour I've generated one more vote in the system: my own.

It is way harder than it should be to find out which candidates support the causes I care about but in the interests of protecting my right to complain about their decisions later, I'm off to make mine now.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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