12 Oct 2013

Call for return to ballot box to boost turnout

10:35 am on 12 October 2013

Auckland's mayor has called for local government elections to return to a ballot box vote, as fears grow of a record low turnout this year.

Auckland Council says just 33% of the city's 1 million voters have now returned postal voting papers, compared with 48% by the same time in the previous election.

Mayor Len Brown says it may be time the three-week postal voting system was scrapped and the country try a mix of a ballot box and online voting instead.

He says that may be the way to get the voting level up from less than 50% to the parliamentary level of 74.2%.

Voting closes at midday on Saturday, and some results should be known by the afternoon.

In the bigger wards, the highest turnout has been in the wealthier areas of Orakei and Devonport-Takapuna where nearly 39% have voted.

Christchurch and Dunedin councils report voting figures running six or seven percentage points behind the same time in 2010.

However, voting in Wellington and Hamilton is on a par or ahead, and some provincial councils also report improved interest.

The president of Local Government New Zealand, Lawrence Yule, says it appears in some areas there has been a last minute rush to get votes in.

He hopes there will not be a record low turnout, and predicts the result may be similar to 2010, when 49% of eligible voters took part.

Votes can still be cast until midday on Saturday at local council and electoral offices and libraries.