One million votes uncast make us irresponsible people

Bawa Arora

Politics and political decision-making affect all of us.

Many Indian Newslink readers who have migrated to New Zealand come from India, the world’s largest democracy.

They are therefore no strangers to politics and its ability to influences the lives of people.

On Saturday, September 23, 2017, New Zealanders will have a chance to exercise their voter franchise. It is therefore appropriate to discuss the voting process and importance of voting.

The Legislature

New Zealand has a unicameral legislature and follows the Mixed Member Proportion (MMP) system of voting. It is a proportional system, which means that the proportion of votes a party gets will largely reflect the number of seats it has in parliament.

Each voter gets two votes.

The first vote is for the political party the voter chooses. This is called the party vote and largely decides the total number of seats each political party gets in Parliament.

The second vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. This is called the electorate vote. Candidate who get the most votes win. They do not have to get more than half the votes.

Share in Parliament

Under current MMP rules, a political party that wins at least one electorate seat or five per cent of the party vote gets a share of the seats in Parliament that is about the same as its share of the party vote.

For example, if a party gets 30% of the party vote, it will get about 36 MPs in Parliament (30% of 120 seats). So, if that party wins 20 electorate seats, it will have 16 List MPs in addition to its 20 Electorate MPs.

Large apathy

Recent analysis shows that in 2014, close to one million enrolled voters did not care to vote. For a nation of 4.8 million people this represents very low voter turnout.

Further, it also affects the formation of the Government and public policy.

New Zealanders need to participate in the process of voting and electing our next and future Governments so that policy formulation can take place based on needs of majority of our population.

In case we choose not to vote, we choose not to participate in the process of electing people who will make critical decisions on taxation, transport, healthcare, climate change and housing and many other social, economic and environmental issues.

Forfeiting rights

Further, we also lose the right to complain when we disagree with policy decision framed by the Government of the day.

Therefore, it is critical that all of us to exercise our right to vote. We should also encourage our youth who have reached the voting age to exercise their rights.

The Election Commission will allow advance voting from September 11, 2017.

The final voting day is Saturday, September 23, 2017.

Voters can access information on polling stations on the election commission website

http://www.elections.org.nz/events/2017-general-election

Bawa Arora is a political observer, resident in Auckland. Related articles appear in this Section.

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