Heather Roy

8 September 2017

The most interesting thing about the Leaders’ Debates this election is the numbers tuning in to listen – significantly increased from the previous two elections. It’s far from a boring election and when there is a potential for a change of government interest is always higher. But even allowing for that, it seems people are engaged and even – surprisingly – talking about policies as well as personalities. Everywhere I’ve been since the debates started people are talking about who won – from my work offices, to friends and family, interest from my kids (ages 21 – 30) to my consulting business (Torquepoint) informal focus group at the Havelock, Marlborough pub. They are a tough but discerning group of down to earth kiwis.

The only certainty, 2 weeks out from election day, is that it is a tight race. Different polls have National and Labour ahead and it isn’t clear which of the two will be able to cobble a coalition together.  Labour seems to have more choices, but anything could happen between now and the counting of the votes to change that.

Each election there are two groups who could be hugely influential if mobilized. The first is kiwis overseas who are eligible to vote. The second is young people, especially first time voters. Both typically show a poor turnout and with young New Zealanders, a high proportion fail to even register to vote, let alone turn up to a polling booth on election day. If there was a turnaround in either or both of these groups the election outcome in a very close election might be quite different.

According to the Electoral Commission only 66% of those in the 18-24 age bracket are enrolled to vote. Out of an estimated eligible population of 460,890 young kiwis only 306,654 have enrolled. Hardly a ‘Youthquake’.  But that shortfall, 154,000 voters, could sway the outcome of this election.

By comparison 74.2% are enrolled in the 25-29 age group and we steadily become more responsible about having our say – by the time we reach our 40’s the figures are over 90%. 55 – 59 years have the highest stats at 97.5% enrolment.

Of course enrolling is just one part of the equation but voting quite another. Last election (2014) only 62.5% of 18 – 24 year olds enrolled to vote actually did. The total population turnout was close to 77%.

Meanwhile, the political parties are running out of time to convince voters they should trust them with their vote. Overseas voting started on 6 September and early voting begins on Monday 11 September at any of the early polling booths set up around the country.

Anyone not yet enrolled to vote can do so on the Electoral Commission website.