27 Apr 2012

Half of non-voters decided not to on election day

4:08 pm on 27 April 2012

An Electoral Commission survey indicates that half of those who did not vote in the last election, made that decision on the day.

The report was commissioned to gauge voter satisfaction with the services the commission provides and to help understand why people don't vote.

Nearly a third of all those eligible to take part in last year's election chose not to.

That's a drop of 6% compared with 2008 and the worst turnout overall for more than 100 years.

Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden says the reasons for not taking part were very similar to those given three years ago: they had other committments or couldn't be bothered.

While it is illegal not to enrol in New Zealand, no one is ever fined. Mr Peden says encouragement and a "carrot" approach is preferred to the "stick" and imposing penalites

But political scientist Nigel Roberts says its time to get tough with voters and consider the system used in Australia where everyone must vote or be fined.

The survey found an increase in the consumption of electoral information provided over the internet and a decrease in awareness of television advertising.

But Mr Peden does not believe racing towards on-line voting will be the total solution to declining voter participation, saying there was no evidence from overseas that that would be the result.

The Parliamentary Justice and Electoral Select Committee is conducting its own inquiry into the 2011 election and the low voter turnout.

The deadline for submissions is the end of next week and a report is expected in the second half of this year.

More on this can be heard Radio New Zealand's Insight programme on Sunday.