As a kid growing up, I always loved the suspense of election night. My dad was an MP for 24 years in South Taranaki. Many still remember him, Venn Young. We used to go to the Hawera Club on election night and watch the TV as the votes started rolling in. Back then it was first-past the post and usually by the end of the night, we knew who was in and who was out, and who the Government for the next three years would be. With MMP, it can be more complicated.
In New Zealand, generally all permanent residents and citizens over 18 are eligible to vote. The main exceptions are when a person has been living overseas continuously for too long, has been detained in a psychiatric hospital, or since 2010, is currently a sentenced prisoner.
I was competing in a pub quiz a few weeks ago and the question was, “when did New Zealand give women the vote?” I got the answer wrong! However I was right in knowing that New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the right to vote – and answer was in 1893.
Originally the Parliamentary term was set at five years by the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852, but in 1875, the term was reduced to three years, largely with the view of making Governments more accountable to the electorate. It was agreed that voters must have the power to endorse or change a government at regular and frequent elections so that it remains responsible to them. At the same time, voters also want the Government to have adequate time to implement its policies without the continual preoccupation of an imminent election. That is why three years was struck in order to find the balance between voter sovereignty and effective government. Many feel three years is too short, while five years might be too long. I’m in favor of a four year electoral term, although I’m sure opposition parties want shorter rather than longer cycles.
So on 23 September this year, you get to choose. It’s your democratic right, and also your democratic responsibility. This election, like the one past, has voting starting two weeks prior to the 23 September. The Electoral Commission is anticipating that 50% of the votes cast in this year’s election, will be early votes before the 23rd. With people’s busy lives often taking them away from their electorates on Election Day, early voting means more people can vote, more easily. It’s a good thing.
National are seeking a fourth term to serve the people of New Zealand, in Government. It is an enormous privilege that has to be earned. I’m encouraging you to ensure you vote this election, and I’m particularly biased on who you should vote for, but that’s up to you. Our democracy is one of the best in the world, our economy is going very well. There are 22% more jobs being advertised in Taranaki this past June, than in June 2016. I hope we have earned the confidence of the majority of the people of New Zealand. The 23rd will tell all.