Abstinence from voting is no option

Often the youth of our society are referred to as irresponsible.

What really frustrates me about this is that in some instances we actually measure up to the title.

Prime Minister John Key recently announced the date of the next general election as September 20, 2014. In the next five months, we will all be heading to the polls to tick a box and choose New Zealand’s Government for the next three years.

The problem is that not everyone will take part in this process.

In the 2008 election, a significant number of eligible young people did not vote. In fact, almost four out of every ten 18-24 year olds (39.9%) failed to turn up to a voting booth.

In the last election, that number rose to 41.8%.

That is worryingly close to half of my peer group silencing their own democratic voice.

Compare this with my parents’ age group. Nine out every ten (90.1%) 45-64 year olds turned up and made their political opinions count in 2008, and even in the record low turnout of the 2011 election, only 13.3% of this age group stayed away. 13.3% compared to the 41.8% of my peers who did not think that it was worth the effort.

It seems my age group is blind to the importance of their vote.

The Government could be forgiven for not taking our opinions seriously, and we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Free and transparent engagement in the democratic process is a right and a privilege that distinguishes us from dictatorships like Libya and Iraq.

It is a right that people around the world have given their lives for time and again.

Elections are a time when the people of a nation can hold their leaders to account. But if we are not voting, to whom will the leaders provide the answers?

For democracy to work we must stand up and be counted.

Every vote does make a difference. Every voice does matter. But in order to be heard we do need to speak.

We would have two options on September 20.

We can be irresponsible and choose to stay at home, or we can make the most of this privilege and have our voices heard.

I would urge you to do the latter.

Danielle van Dalen is an intern on placement at Maxim Institute based in Auckland.

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