Local Government elections do not elicit the same excitement and expectation (at least not in the measure required) as the general election does every three years.
However, how our cities are governed, the way the transport system works, and the availability of public utilities are all issues over which the Mayor, Councillors and Members of the Local Boards should be held responsible.
Unlike Australia, our laws have not made it mandatory for people to vote, although ironically, it is imperative to be registered on the electoral roll.
Unlike many other countries, voting rights are restricted to citizens but permanent residents are also eligible.
Abstaining is not an option.
The Electoral Commission has appealed to all eligible voters to register and vote for candidates who they consider best suited for their City, Area and Ward.
Electoral Commission National Manager (Enrolment Services) Murray Wicks said that people not exercising their franchise not only fail in their duty as citizens and residents, but also lose the right to criticise.
Our uncast votes could have made a difference to the outcome of the election and hence, we do have the right to question, he said.
“You cannot be punished for not casting your vote either at the election booth or by post or through such other means that are available. But we believe that the consequences of not exercising votes are punishment anyway,” he said.
Mr Wicks said that the election procedure has been simplified and that the voting public need not go to any booth to cast their vote.
“All you have to do is to use the election form sent by post to your address, choose your candidates and post them to the Electoral Commission within the prescribed date. Recipients should verify that the details contained in the pack are correct. Corrections should be made in the accompanying form, which must be signed, enclosed in the pre-paid envelopes and posted to the Commission,” he said.
Further information can be obtained on 0800-367656 or by free text to 2676.
Online registration facility is also available at www.elections.org.nz
“Enrolment rates vary across the country and hence the Electoral Commission is challenging local areas to narrow the gap. In some areas, up to 10% of the eligible population is not enrolled. We think New Zealand can do better,” Mr Wicks said.