Calls have been made to overhaul a voting system Rotorua's deputy mayor says is "out of whack" after the latest local body election had a voter turnout of just 45 per cent.
The most up-to-date election returns figures show just 21,215 eligible voters, or 45.17 per cent, participated in the Rotorua Lakes Council election.
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The result was on par with 2016's turnout, which saw 45.99 per cent of votes returned.
Of the 2019 votes, 2706 were returned on the final day, October 12. October 9 and 10 saw the most votes returned during the election period, with 3020 and 3038 votes returned respectively.
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson, who described the political voting system as "out of whack" and "rooted", said the local election process needed to change.
He called for the same system as central government, which allowed for special votes and a polling day, or a change to online voting.
He said elections should be held every four years for both central and local governments, separated by two years in between.
"The [current] system is so out of whack. It is rooted. It is way past its used by date."
Donaldson, elected to the Rotorua Lakes Council for the fifth time, said society had moved ahead in so many ways yet local body politics still had to endure what he described as an archaic voting system that relied on postal voting.
He said the "random" nature of the postal service meant some people either got their forms late or not at all and for many, the forms either sat at their home untouched or were put in the bin.
"I bumped into people two days to go before it closed, and these are positive, progressive business people in Rotorua, and they still hadn't voted. They were just so busy they hadn't got around to it."
Warwick Lampp, electoral officer for Rotorua and Tauranga, disagreed, saying last-minute votes had landed Rotorua with similar figures to the last election, which was a "pretty strong result at the end of the day".
However, he agreed the figures showed fewer people were posting their votes.
"The takeaway is the hand-delivered votes and special votes were massive all around the country. I think it was primarily because people were too late to put it in the post or people don't have confidence in the post system anymore.
"We do need to look at ways to make it easier to vote and online voting is one way of doing that as are making ballot boxes more accessible."
But online voting would not be a silver bullet for participation, Lampp said.
"It won't make a massive difference straight away.
"Candidates do have to take some responsibility for turnout and candidates that engage with voters in a different way, rather than just putting up a billboard, will all help in participation."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce acting chief executive Bryce Heard said he was always disappointed with the voter turnout and this year was no different.
However, he said he wasn't surprised.
"People are prepared to give the council a hard time about their decisions but when it comes to election time, they don't use their vote."
Heard said while people were apathetic when it came to local body elections, he also believed the current voting system was "counter-productive".
"Voting would be more at the top of the mind for people if we had to cast our votes on one election day.
"This prolonged election period devalues the process. It's become a marathon that everybody loses interest in."
Heard said he believed moving to a one-day voting system and allowing for online voting could help move the dial but maintained that was not the only solution to fixing voter apathy.
- Additional reporting by Kelly Makiha