Eva Bradley: Will you take the plunge, or does ticking boxes prove too arduous for you?

By Eva Bradley

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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, have you voted?

Statistics indicate a majority won't have and so if you are one of them I then have to ask, do you feel bad about that?

Voting in local body elections closes officially at midday today. Depending when you enjoy your weekend paper, you will be feeling one of about three things right now: satisfaction at having fulfilled your community obligation, panic or guilt because you have yet to or 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I'm on the unpublished roll, so the fact I have to physically go into my local council to vote, combined with being tied up on a three-day photo shoot, means there's a high chance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 currently being managed, or highly indifferent. And 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 postbox 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 councillors will either support or veto a $900 million dam and agree or disagree about reinstating a railway line 50m 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. And 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 over the next three years.

It's probably too late to have swayed you if you're an apathetic voter, but over 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.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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