I’ve spent most of my life being kind of unsure about why I should vote.
To the readers of this publication, that might seem unusual, or absurd, or irresponsible.
But I’m fairly normal. I’m like most New Zealanders. I’m not a very politically knowledgeable person. I’m not naturally inclined to pay attention to politics. It looks like people criticising each other most of the time, and talking in convoluted ways about things I don’t really understand the rest of the time.
When you don’t really understand politics, your ideas about voting tend to centre around two simplistic and inaccurate beliefs:
1. You vote for the person or party that you want to be in charge.
2. If it appears fait accompli that a particular party or PM candidate is going to win, then the point of voting is greatly diminished, because your one little vote doesn’t really make any difference.
Because of this, I didn’t vote much.
Then somebody explained it to me.
And I thought ‘why has nobody explained it before’?
Our campaigns to get people to vote are depressingly benign. The current campaign message is ‘vote because you have the right to’.
That campaign doesn’t even begin to explain why you should care about exercising that right.
It doesn’t address those beliefs that people have about voting, that make them unlikely to vote.
I can’t understand how it has any chance of changing peoples’ behaviour.
I can’t understand why we’re not explaining it like I had it explained to me.
It’s pretty simple:
We have this special system in our country where somebody gets to be the leader, but they get guided by a whole bunch of other people to do the right thing.
Whoever ends up the leader of our country for the next three years is going to have a group of people around them who we vote in. People who stand up for what we believe in.
Our special system means that our leader has to listen to these people. But only if we vote them in.
When you vote in New Zealand, you are not voting for the leader. You are voting for the people that will constantly remind that leader about what’s important.
If you think that our leader needs to be reminded about environmental issues and kept from making environmental blunders, then vote for the party that you believe cares most about the environment.
If you think our leader needs to be reminded about economic growth, and kept from making economic blunders, then vote for the party that you believe cares most about the economy.
If you think our leader needs to be reminded about Maori issues and kept from ignoring Maori issues, then vote for the party that you believe cares most about Maori people.
If we don’t vote them in, then there isn’t anyone keeping our leader honest. Our leader will have free reign to do whatever they please.
So whatever we do, we should never not vote because we don’t think our favourite party has any hope of winning the election.
We should vote because we want our leader to have to listen to what we think is important.
We don’t need to give those other parties many votes for them to stand up for what we believe in.
But if we don’t give them any votes, then nothing we believe in will be stood up for.
That’s why you should vote.