With due respect to director Hy Averback and his 1970 movie of a similar name, our local candidate and voter turnouts have raised the question, suppose they held an election and nobody came?
The situation has been painted as so concerning that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked this week to speculate on how low the turnout threshold should be for local elections to be considered valid, which she declined.
In many areas of Hawke's Bay, the voter turnout was less than 20 per cent until last Friday night.
In Napier, 8771 voting papers for the mayoralty, council wards, and the regional council constituency had been returned, representing 19.08 per cent of the roll of 45,963.
By the second week of the three-week postal ballot period, Waipā District had a mere 9.93 per cent of registered voters having their say.
Whangārei only just made it to 9 per cent, and the returns were even lower further north.
We know from past experience that a number of voters - particularly those wavering between candidates - will keep their postal ballots until just before close at noon on Saturday in case of fresh disclosures or policy announcements.
With the traditional last-minute flow of votes, returns are expected to be near previous levels, however. But that's not necessarily a good thing.
New Zealand seems to have settled into a pattern of low engagement with local elections. Following a restructure of local government in 1989, turnout declined from 57 per cent to 42.2 per cent in 2019, with results over the past three elections showing an overall plateau at this level in turnout.
Is turnout low because of the low numbers of candidates, or is it a reflection of the calibre of candidates?
Local democracy is done no favours when a mayoral candidate declares they would place a photograph of a journalist in urinals for a perceived and, in this case, quite incorrect slight. It lends a new meaning to the term gutter politics and has no place in New Zealand.
Some might believe this sort of carry-on might lift interest but it is far more likely to turn decent-minded people off.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai has blamed a failure to introduce electronic voting for the 2022 local elections, although there is little evidence e-voting increases turnout.
One factor could be the decline in some areas of local newspapers in recent years. Community newspapers hold local politicians and their actions to account. Their closure or drastic downsizing in some areas has perhaps contributed to a vacuum in public awareness about local councillors and board members and their work. Social media, for its massive reach and advertising revenue, has failed to fill the void.
Whatever can be done to lift participation needs addressing urgently for the credibility of our local government and to restore public faith in meaningful local representation.
The low turnout of votes in some areas means candidates will be elected on a handful of ballots; 238 candidates have taken seats automatically due to the low number of nominations - both valid outcomes within the Local Electoral Act 2001 but barely valid as an indication of the will of the people.
Democracy isn't failing us. We are.