The youth population in New Zealand has some of the lowest levels of enrolment to vote, with Electoral Commission statistics showing that only 72% of 18-29 year olds are enrolled to vote.
Major cities who hold the highest student populations in New Zealand still report having the lowest levels of engagement when voting. Electorates surrounding university campuses have also been shown to have the low rates of enrolment to vote across the country. In New Zealand’s 2017 general election, 30.73% of enrolled voters aged 18-24 did not vote; In the Auckland Central electorate, only 79.94% of enrolled voters turned out to vote.
The issue of youth non-voting is concerning due to the fact that in this year’s election, voters will also be able to vote on the End of Life Choice and cannabis referendums. Older generations will have a larger say in the future of younger generations if there is a lack of engagement from younger citizens.
In a 2011 study conducted by Statistics New Zealand, 21% of non-voters reported that their reason for not voting was as a result of forgetfulness or disinterest. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and with the whole of New Zealand now back at Level 1, these may be widespread reasons for non-voting as people adapt back to ordinary life. With many universities requiring students to return to campus, and with the University of Auckland’s upcoming in-person exams, there are far more distractions than in previous election years.
Professor Jack Vowles from Victoria University of Wellington says that “voting is something people do together”. After multiple lockdowns, University of Auckland students may not want to feel alone in doing their civic duty. So, grab a friend and head along to your local polling station.
Advance voting began on the 3rd of October, with the official date of the Election set for Saturday the 17th October. Anyone who is enrolled and eligible to vote is able to cast their vote between 9am-7pm at a number of registered polling stations. You can find out where to vote by heading to www.vote.nz