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Voter turnout in New Zealand: To what extent is it in decline and what can we do about it?

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dc.contributor.author Huang, Hai Xin
dc.date.accessioned 2018-12-04T03:46:00Z
dc.date.accessioned 2022-07-11T23:07:26Z
dc.date.available 2018-12-04T03:46:00Z
dc.date.available 2022-07-11T23:07:26Z
dc.date.copyright 2017
dc.date.issued 2017
dc.identifier.uri https://ir.wgtn.ac.nz/handle/123456789/20857
dc.description.abstract Election year is upon us, and with it comes the familiar flurry of political posturing and frenzied media attention. Reverberating in every politician’s mind is one thing, and one thing only: to win the votes of enough New Zealanders to enter Parliament and form a government. Garish though this may be, it is democracy in action. Every vote casted goes to sustaining the system of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”¹ There is something amiss however. Less and less people are turning out to vote in national elections compared to previous generations.² This is not unique to New Zealand, as many Western democracies around the world are also seeing declining turnout rates. A great deal of research and discussion on this issue has taken place overseas, but not so much in New Zealand. What’s all the fuss about? To what extent is our voter turnout in decline? Should New Zealanders be worried? I take these questions to be the starting point of my research paper. After examining the long-term trends of turnout in New Zealand, I argue that it is in a serious state of decline with grave consequences for the proper performance of democratic government. This view is based on three key functions of voting that will be severely impaired by declining turnout, namely, the legitimising function, the representative function, and the control function. Of utmost interest then is what we can do to boost turnout rates. To identify potential solutions, I first investigate the factors contributing to declining turnout in New Zealand. Available data shows that non-voting is due to a combination of political apathy, cynicism and delayed maturity. On that basis, I evaluate two different solutions that appear to address the contributing factors: lowering the voting age to 16 and making voting compulsory. I find that both solutions have significant weaknesses from at least one of consequentialist, principled and institutional viewpoints. I then propose a hybrid option that incorporates the strengths of both solutions while overcoming their individual weaknesses. In this way, I hope to encourage further research and discussion about declining turnout in New Zealand and what we can do about it. ¹ Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States “The Gettysburg Address” (Soldiers' National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 19 November 1863). ² The turnout of 79.8 per cent for the 2017 General Election is the highest since the 2005 General Election (80.5 per cent), but is nevertheless over 10 per cent lower than pre-1990 levels. See Statistics New Zealand "Voter turnout" (October 2014) <www.stats.govt.nz>. en_NZ
dc.format pdf en_NZ
dc.language en_NZ
dc.language.iso en_NZ
dc.publisher Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington en_NZ
dc.subject Voting en_NZ
dc.subject Political en_NZ
dc.subject Participation en_NZ
dc.title Voter turnout in New Zealand: To what extent is it in decline and what can we do about it? en_NZ
dc.type Text en_NZ
vuwschema.contributor.unit Victoria Law School en_NZ
vuwschema.contributor.unit Faculty of Law / Te Kauhanganui Tātai Ture en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcfor 180103 Administrative Law en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcfor 180108 Constitutional Law en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcfor 180119 Law and Society en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcseo 970118 Expanding Knowledge in Law and Legal Studies en_NZ
vuwschema.type.vuw Research Paper or Project en_NZ
thesis.degree.discipline Law en_NZ
thesis.degree.name LL.B. (Honours) en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcforV2 489999 Other law and legal studies not elsewhere classified en_NZ
vuwschema.contributor.school School of Law en_NZ

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