Editorial: Missed the post? Don't miss the election

The elections matter and so does your vote. Photo / Getty Images
The elections matter and so does your vote. Photo / Getty Images

Unless you took a moment yesterday to fill out your local body ballot papers and put the envelope in the mail, your vote will probably not arrive in time to be counted on Saturday. You can be in the count if you drop the envelope into a ballot box at a municipal library, and if you have not received ballot papers it is still possible to register for a special vote at elections.org.nz but you could have saved yourself the trouble.

Postal voting still seems the most satisfactory system for local elections when convenience for the voter is weighed against the integrity of the vote. Online voting may be more convenient but electoral authorities need to be satisfied it is reliable.

Unless there has been a last-minute flurry larger than usual, Auckland is likely to record a 40 percent turn-out this time, better than the 35.5 percent three years ago but well down on the Super City's first election in 2010.

Postal voting will be blamed, especially if participation is very low among the young. It is said they change their address more frequently, spend more of their lives online and may be less inclined to go out of their way to find a post box.

The complexity of the ballot will be blamed too if the turnout is disappointing. Besides being invited to vote for a mayor, Aucklanders have ward councillors and local board members to choose. Finally, they are presented with a district health board election that invites them to number all candidates, if they wish, in order of preference.

It sounds more complex than it really is. The procedures are set out clearly on the ballot paper and anyone capable of casting a thoughtful vote can understand them.

The one deficiency in the instructions is a failure to emphasise strongly that it is not necessary to choose as many candidates as there are seats available. People should choose only candidates that appeal to them. If they cannot find enough who appeal to fill all the seats for their ward, local board or health board, it is unwise to cast ignorant and careless votes for the rest of the seats because one of those careless votes could be the one that puts that candidate ahead of a candidate the voter knows and wants. That outcome is not in the interests of the voter or the city.

Blame for a low turnout lies mainly with the candidates and the non-voters. The candidates for failing to fire voters' interest; the voters for failing to take opportunities to become informed.

Local bodies ought to be of interest to every householder. They oversee essential services that are much closer to the daily lives of most people than the issues that usually dominate a parliamentary election. The problem may be that the overseeing role given to elected councils is becoming too far removed from effective government. Officials and appointed boards make the decisions of most interest on subjects such as roading and public transport, water supply and drainage.

But Auckland mayoral and council candidates have resolved to assert more authority over officers and appointed boards. Voters need to assess which of them looks more capable of doing so. The elections matter and so does your vote.

- NZ Herald

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