In the 2011 election only 74 per cent of eligible voters cast their vote, the lowest percentage since 1978. The figure has been in decline since a spike in 1981, a year in which the aftermath of the Springbok tour would have galvanised people into taking some responsibility for their own government.

The explanation most often cited for not voting was that people felt "disengaged".

Some said they didn't know enough about the issues, but that doesn't stop dozens of people from standing every three years, especially in the nether regions of the party lists. But the most worrying group of non-voters is the sector we can call "kids today". In 2011, 42 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 just couldn't be bothered.

Also unlikely to vote were the poor and the unemployed, probably on the grounds that, well, where has it ever got them?


All of which means there is a substantial block of votes to be had if any party wants to go after them.

Unfortunately, there is a high risk this year that young voters will be even less inclined to turn up. In their eyes politics has become a compendium of things they detest - dishonesty, cheating and hypocrisy, to name a few. They dislike being patronised. They dislike being fobbed off with a smirk. And they really, really dislike bullying.

So when it comes to politics, they're all, like, "Talk to the hand."

For National and Labour, it's really not worth making the effort to win young hearts. They must know they've had their chance and blown it.

The Internet-Mana party, however, has made it a priority to win over young people, and that sector is over-represented at its surprisingly well-attended meetings.

The Kim Dotcom charisma is one reason. The young were already well-disposed towards him because he had made their online lives easier. But they are not just turning up to be in the presence of the Modern Warfare 3 champion.

In their minds, if he has got into politics there must be something to it, so they will go along to a meeting in that least cyber of spaces - a hall - to find out what.

It's a classic bait and switch. Get them in with Dotcom, lock the doors and submit them to Laila and Hone.


Once they have the young ones at their mercy, those canny old operatives identify the unregistered voters and sign them up.

Who'd have thought this ragtag bunch of misfits would turn out to be the party with the well-oiled machine?

Kim Dotcom may have provided the oil but it's worth noting Harre and Harawira have just the one sugar daddy while, in theory, Act and National, at least, have access to platoons of plutocrats.

This is also the first election where consumption of social media is widespread enough to make a difference.

Whereas the major parties are bothering their followers on Facebook and Twitter - or, in New Zealand First's case, on Myspace and Bebo - the kids are learning about how the world works on Vice and talking about it on reddit.

It's old people who use social media to gossip and share the wacky memes. For young people, those media are windows on to alternative views of the world and what they see is making them more interested in politics.

They may ossify into tribal voters, sticking to a party line through their lives, but at the moment they're open to all options. Their votes are there to be had and Internet-Mana is happy - and smart enough - to have them.