29 May 2014

Compulsory voting 'not democratic'

10:23 pm on 29 May 2014

Justice Minister Judith Collins has dismissed the idea of making voting compulsory in order to get people to the ballot box.

Speaking at a conference at Parliament on improving voter turnout on Thursday, Ms Collins said she wasn't keen on following Australia's example to compel people to enrol and vote.

Judith Collins.

Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

"It doesn't feel democratic to me to do that. It feels democratic to me and part of our Kiwi ethos that we can't force someone to want to vote."

Ms Collins said she would prefer to encourage people to vote by telling them why it's important to use their democratic voice.

But a researcher into voter participation told the conference that young people are being ignored by politicians, and this has serious implications for democracy.

At the last election in 2011, only three-quarters of eligible voters aged 18 to 29 enrol and only about 40 percent actually voted.

Associate Professor Jennifer Curtin said young people are interested in issues, but are turned off by party politics.

"Young people don't vote because parties don't appeal to them. Parties don't appeal to young voters because they don't vote."

Associate Professor Curtin said parties must reach out by recruiting younger candidates and listening to what young people think rather than just asking for their votes.