1 Jul 2014

Panel looks at value of vote

8:32 am on 1 July 2014

Dozens of young people turned out in Auckland on Monday night to debate the merits or otherwise of voting.

About 70 people attended the panel discussion "Why Vote" hosted by Radio New Zealand website The Wireless.

Among the crowd were people from RockEnrol, an initiative to encourage young people to vote.

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Photo: RNZ

Campaign director Laura O'Connell-Rapira said fewer than half of those aged 18 to 29 voted in the last election and many do not understand why they should, or even how it works.

"A lot of people that I meet who don't vote ... are the kind of people that would write a rant on Facebook, and they would easily spend ten, twenty minutes really asserting some really strong opinion that they have. I think it's just not realising that opinion is actually a political one."

Two of the panellists argued that voting was important but Wellington activist Richard Bartlett told the meeting that choosing not to cast a ballot was a legitimate and rational choice. He had voted before and it didn't make much difference, he said.

"I do think, though, that if everyone didn't vote - and we are seeing that globally through Western democracies that the turnout is dropping and dropping - it questions the legitimacy of the system and it forces us to consider alternatives."

He said he wanted to explore other possibilities, such as everybody getting to discuss and vote on individual policies.