Fifth in a series of Six Parts
For Vanisa Dhiru, there is no question that she will be voting in the coming election.
“It’s up to all of us to have a say in how our country is run – and you get your say by voting,” she said.
Voting starts soon in the 2017 General Election, when New Zealanders will choose who will represent them in Parliament for the next three years.
Election day is September 23, but people can vote anytime from September 11.
Vanisa Dhiru, who is of Indian descent, was born in New Zealand and lives in Wellington where she works as a consultant. She is also the Vice-President of the National Council of Women NZ and takes pride in the fact that New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote in 1893.
“124 years ago, a bunch of great leaders pushed for women to have their right to vote, which meant everyone had that right to have their say. For that, we should be both thankful and willing to take part.”
Ms Dhiru said that she has been enrolled ever since she was able to vote and has taken part in every election since she was 18.
“I have taken my time to review the issues and policies of all the parties, and I want to make an informed vote. After looking over the policy statements, it’s fairly easy to see who I will be voting for.”
It is a similar story with Kaliappa Chetty, a Fijian Indian who moved to New Zealand 14 years ago. The Auckland accountant says that he is enrolled because he is a responsible citizen, and that it is important to vote so that an accountable government can be elected. Like Ms Dhiru, he has also been looking at what the various parties and candidates stand for.
“It’s easy to access information on the parties’ policies and record in Government,” he says.
Aucklander Viraf Todywalla is having a harder job deciding which of the parties he wants to vote for, but he will make a decision and vote in the election.
He says it is what all responsible citizens should do.
“Everybody should vote, and if you do not vote, you should not complain later,” he said.
Electoral Commission Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said that there are many ways to find out more about the candidates and parties contesting the election.
“Talk to your family and friends, look at the party websites, tune into the news, or go along to a local candidate meeting. You will quickly get an idea of what the parties and candidates stand for,” she said.
Voters can also use online tools like Policy, Vote Compass and On the Fence to work out which political parties match their own views on issues like health, education, roads and tax.
“Think about what is important to you in your everyday lives – that will help you decide who to vote for,” Ms Wright said.
Mixed Member Proportional
New Zealand has a proportional voting system called MMP, or Mixed Member Proportional.
Ms Wright said that the key thing to know about MMP is that every voter has two votes, one for the political party they want to be in Government, and one for the candidate they want to represent their local area. These are called the party vote and the electorate vote.
“When you go into a voting place, you will be given one ballot paper. On one side is a list of political parties to choose from, and on the other side is a list of people standing for election as the local Member of Parliament (MP). Put one tick beside the party you choose, and one tick beside the candidate you want to be your MP. That is it – two ticks and you are done,” Ms Wright said.
Political parties with a bigger share of the party vote will get more seats in Parliament and coalitions are usually needed to form a government.
More information on voting under MMP can be found at www.elections.org.nz in several languages, including Hindi and Gujarati.
Need to enrol
People need to enrol before they can vote in the election. To be eligible to enrol and vote, a person must be 18 years old or older, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and have lived in New Zealand continuously for one year or more at some time of their life.
They can enrol or update their details – including a change of address – by filling in an enrolment form. Forms are available at www.elections.org.nz and at PostShops. People can also ask for a form to be sent to them by calling 800 36 76 56, or by texting their name and address to 3676.
Voting starts on September 11, when advance voting places open and goes right through until election day on September 23. To find a nearby voting place go to www.elections.org.nz or call 0800-367656.
“If you are worried about voting, remember our voting place staff can help you on the day you go to vote. Your vote is important, so make sure your voice is heard in 2017,” Ms Wright said.