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August 11, 2008 | by  | in News |
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Please Don’t Vote

I read a heart touching story the other day in the Taranaki Daily News about a group of hairdressers who had made it their goal to get everyone they knew enrolled and ready to vote come election time. One part of me smiled because democracy is all about getting involved and voting, but the other part of me cried. I cried because, and I know this is just playing into the hands of a stereotype but, hairdressers… really? They even said in the article that they knew nothing about policy… so I thought, why do we let all people vote?

The current state of media in New Zealand is a major reason why you should not be voting. They give us sound bites, they give us worms (I suggest de-worming NZ media), they do not give us analysis and they are biased with their own agendas. Because of the parochial nature of ratings based news media we cannot expect people who think they’re politically informed because they watch the six o’clock news and Campbell Live to actually have a sense of what is going on.

The bare skin and bones of it is that in a democracy we supposedly each have a say in the policy of the government. But if we’re too busy and there is no tangible incentive for each voter to do policy analysis the end product is bad policy. We vote on our passions, our biases and traditions, and sometimes we vote for no real reason at all, except that we’re told it is our civic duty.

Enfranchisement is the biggest sheepskin that politicians have ever pulled over our eyes. It is an opiate and makes us feel like we play a direct part in government when the truth is that we have very little say. I, as a citizen of New Zealand, have no direct input into Labour or National’s policy making process. Sure, I could join a party, but the rules of each party prohibit me from being a member of another party at the same time. The only way that I can get policy I want is to use the power of my one vote, one vote out of a couple of million. I align my vote with the party that has the most similar policy to what I want, but somewhere in the hubbub of all this voting my vote starts to lose its worth because I don’t get the policy outcomes I want, and neither do any of the other people who also vote.

Abstaining from voting because you know very little about politics is a perfectly worthy choice to make and if more people made that choice we would end up with better policy outcomes. Parties would have to start looking at their policies critically and making them appeal to those who have the time, and who want to put the effort into analysing them, because that is where the votes are. Abstaining does not preclude you from criticising the policies of any parties; if anything it frees up your time so you don’t have to worry about the politicking going on around you.

The Irish, of all people, have the right idea when it comes to reforming democracy. The Seanad Éireann of the Republic of Ireland is voted in by graduates of university and by nomination from specialist independent bodies.

The first thing we need to do is start teaching civics in schools. If we teach children about the system they live in they may continue their interest in later years. Secondly we need to make Parliament more accessible. Currently we can only walk around Parliament during a guided tour. Thirdly as a country we need put pressure on parties to provide us with substantive policy, and we need to put pressure on media outlets to analyse political goings on further than Winston’s Spencer Trust, and who made those tapes of Bill English.

Apathy rocks, so if you don’t want to vote, please don’t. If you think you’re vote doesn’t count you’re right, so please don’t vote. If you’re doing a BCA please don’t vote. If you’re uninformed please, please please don’t vote.

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About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (8)

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  1. Superior Mind says:

    Mr. Wood, as well as taking a Parliamentary tour one is also able to sit in on Queston Time, Debates and even most Select Committee hearings. Not only that but MPs are able to be contacted easily by anyone. Just go on the http://www.parliament.nz website and you can e-mail any MP you care to name as well as having access to other contact details, (mailing addresses, personal websites etc.) This in mind, how exactly do you propose we make Parliament more accessible?

    I understand what you mean about uninformed voters, most people vote for the political bribe they think will most benefit them rather than going into any depth and looking at other policy. We, the comparibly informed voters, are no different; I’m fairly confident, Mr. Wood, that you voted Labour in 2005 for the same reason I did.

    I endorse not voting if you think there’s no point or if you simply don’t support any party or candidate. For my electorate vote in 2005 I ticked every circle and voted for everyone simply because I knew who would win and I didn’t like any of them anyway. This probably voided my entire ballot but no matter, my point is that if you feel theres no point in voting then don’t vote, there’s nothing wrong with that. However if a person wants to vote simply because they want to feel represented in Parliament the issue on whether their vote is informed or not shouldn’t matter.

  2. Gibbon says:

    I just vote for whichever party has the least amount of policies.

    PS JW how come the comment box ain’t showing up properly … the “recent comments” one I mean?

  3. Jackson Wood says:

    In many legislatures around the world, especially state legislatures you are free to roam around the building of “self guided” tours, this is especially so in the USA. You are free to take pictures of the buildings, inside and outside, you are free to take pictures of the art that is displayed. In some legislatures you can even take photos of the legislators while they’re legislating! Email and the internetz and esp. Parliament TV has made it heaps easier to peer into the lives of our MPs and I think this is a good thing.

    Sorry SM, but you’re way wrong. I did not vote for Labour with either my Party or candidate vote! I thought I had made it pretty obvious which party I support… especially in one of those last posts I did… oh well.

    Gib: so you voted for 99 MP party last election and will vote for New World Order Party this time round?

    We just changed servers, and upgraded to the new version of WordPress… we’ve still got a few bugs to iron out and a few things to drop in, so hopefully this will be fixed sometime soon :)

  4. Superior Mind says:

    You resisted temptation then, well done.

    I still don’t quite get what you’re on about making Parliament more open – to solve uninformed voting I mean. What you’re proposing is just to turn Parliament into more of a tourist attracton.

  5. Jackson Wood says:

    It already is a tourist attraction! Have you never gone on one of the tours where you mysteriously end up by the souvenir shop at the end? It is about trust, obviously the politicians do not trust us, we go through airport style security to get in yet we can’t wander around freely. Present an open, and transparent parliament to visitors, and maybe government will become more open and transparent. (It really has nothing much to do with the main argument, but I had just seen Nigel Roberts’ inaugural professorship lecture and it was somewhat about the architecture, art and accessibility of parliaments)

  6. Superior Mind says:

    Hence me saying “MORE of a tourist attraction”.
    I get your point though, it would be nice to just wander around the place without all the security people looking like they think that I’ve got an automatic weapon stuffed up my arse. It does give it an “aura” of inaccessability which can scare away the more timid. Would it make government more transparent? Probably not but it’s still a nice thought.

    Also for the record, I love those Parlia-mints they sell in the gift shop. Those things are awesome.

  7. Gibbon says:

    Obviously JW voted for the Worker’s Party ho ho ho

  8. Jackson Wood says:

    Heh! Two ticks for Joel Cosgrove.
    Wrong again… It was… wait a second…

    I just had a great idea… if you don’t want to vote, you can abstain into a special pool of votes where your “lost” vote is distributed at random. So that way you could get wild card entries into parliament!

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