Two months from the November 26 general election, one in four New Zealanders aged 18-29 aren’t enrolled to vote – something Electoral Enrolment Centre National Manager Murray Wicks is trying to change.I've not yet seen a plausible instrumental story about why any individual should vote. Plenty of good non-instrumental stories - some folks think it's fun for its own sake, and who am I to question their utils?
He says low enrolment “is the norm”, but this election the figures are skewed towards “an over-representation… in the 18-29 age group”.
The reasons are different for each person, Mr Wicks says, but two dominate.
“Voting’s not cool, it’s something that grown-ups do, it’s something that adults do, and it’s not interesting,” he says.
“There’s also that they just haven’t got around to it."
He says young people need to be aware that their vote counts and will influence election results. “Their vote is important, their voice is important,” he says. “Whatever they choose to vote they’re making the decision for New Zealand and for themselves, rather than leaving it to other people to vote for them.”That may be true of youth voters as a block, but it isn't true of any individual in that group. If iPredict's saying there's a 94% chance National forms the next government, the odds of any individual vote changing that are pretty slim. So too are the odds of any voter pushing any minor party from being just under to being just over the quotient for another list seat.
Elections NZ gives the St Laguë quota numbers from the 2002 election. The system divides each eligible party's vote by sequential odd numbers: 1, 3, 5, ... 53, ... 105. The largest quotient gets the first list seat, the second largest quotient gets the second list seat, and so on.
The last allocated list seat in that election went to National: their 425,310 votes divided by 53 gave the 120th largest quotient: 8024.717. Had there been a 121st seat, it would have gone to United Future, whose 135,918 votes gave it a quotient of 7995.176 when divided by 17. How many more votes would United Future have needed to have taken that 120th seat from National? 502. If some group of 500-odd National voters had stayed home, that 120th seat could have flipped over to United Future. Would that have changed the election outcome? No. Peter Dunne still would have gone into coalition with Helen Clarke.
To change the outcome of an MMP election, you either have to be the pivotal voter in a pivotal district like Ohariu-Belmont or Epsom, where a minor party's election lets it bring in a few other MPs, or be the voter who changes the quotient on the 121st list seat sufficiently to flip the ordering of the 120th and 121st quotients, or be a pivotal voter in a district that generates an overhang. And, on top of that, the change in the composition of Parliament has to be sufficient to either change the governing coalition or the substantive power of members of the coalition. In the 2002 example above, Peter Dunne's jumping from 8 seats to 9 is unlikely to have had any substantive effect.
Alas, most folks prefer the veil of self-deception, imagining that their vote really does make a difference. No Right Turn says voting is a weapon youths can use against their failing elders. Maybe. But it's a weapon not unlike a one-use eyedropper when trying to drown an elephant.