Voting for first time at 37 years old: 'I felt really good after it'

7:47 pm on 20 October 2020

Inspired by the work Labour has done in Bay of Plenty, 37-year-old Chris Graham cast a vote for the first time on Saturday.

Local business owner Chris Graham proudly holds up the polling booth sign as he votes in an election for the first time on 17 October, 2020.

Local business owner Chris Graham proudly holds up the polling booth sign as he votes in an election for the first time on 17 October, 2020. Photo: Supplied / LDR

Graham gave the red team two ticks at the Thornton Primary School polling booth - joining the other 100 people who voted there on the day.

Only 22 of his fellow Thornton voters joined him in endorsing Labour with the majority, 47, favouring National. ACT received 17 votes with the rest of the votes split between the other parties.

Graham said the thing that really made him want to get out and vote was the fact that hundreds of marae throughout the country were being upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund.

"That funding will create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople, which will then filter through into the pockets of local families and so on.

"I've never set foot on a marae, but I know this investment will help get people back into work in Whakatāne and at the same time upgrade the critical wellbeing infrastructure on marae."

Graham moved to the district from Auckland just over a year ago and said he was impressed to see things changing on the ground as a result of Labour's policies.

This included new roads, footpaths, and buildings.

He said the influence of politics in the regions was far more pronounced than it was in the city.

"You can actually see it happening in real time, which is really great.

"So, at 37 years old, this gave me the motivation to get off the sofa from watching the Bathurst practice and get down to Thornton School and vote. It was really easy and such a great process. I felt really good after it and every vote does count."

He plans to repeat the process again in three years' time.

In contrast, Whakatāne man Tamati Taylor did not vote because he was "too lazy".

Taylor, 33, joked he was too busy studying and playing PlayStation to get down and vote. He said if online voting was available, he might have voted then.

More importantly though, he said he did not know who to vote for even if he had the motivation.

"This is maybe because I didn't dive into it enough to get an interest in politics."

He said he asked his friends and family who they were voting for and why, but their responses failed to sway him.

Taylor said many were voting for candidates simply because they were Māori, Christian or because they believed conspiracy theories.

"There were no good solid answers," he said.

Taylor said he did find it hard to get a cohesive overview of each party's politics and the information he was getting was fragmented. He would have liked to have seen some kind of central hub where people could find that information easily.

Taylor has voted once before but only because he went down to the polling booth in a family group.

"It really comes down to laziness, and some way to engage and take an interest," he said.

"I know they can make a difference and every vote counts, but I'm just not into it."

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