Choose, and choose wisely
When I was 10 years old, I volunteered to distribute pamphlets for one of the electorate candidates in our area. Each day of my school holiday I would fill up a shopping bag with stacks of shiny brochures, grab my Dad’s Walkman, and progress assertively around the streets of our neighbourhood filling letterboxes; proudly marking my route on the electorate map.
I submit this as evidence that I’ve long been a political junkie, from writing letters to the Prime Minister at age 7, to my current role working at a think tank. Fortunately, my friends are very helpful in pointing out that my level of interest and knowledge of the political process is “unusual.” The more honest ones say “weird.”
However, in this last week of the election period, these normally random bits of knowledge that help me win pub quizzes become incredibly important for everyone about to cast their vote. So here are a few things to consider before you walk into the polling booth.
First, brush up on your MMP strategy. You’ve got two votes, one for a party, and one for a person that you would like to represent your local electorate in parliament. Your party vote counts towards the total number of votes that party gets from all over New Zealand, so it doesn’t matter if nobody else in your electorate votes for your chosen party, your party vote will still count.
Your electorate vote is different. You get to vote for one person to represent your electorate, and the candidate who wins the most votes from the electorate gets into parliament. And even though most candidates are aligned with a political party, there’s nothing to stop you from voting for a candidate from one party, and using your party vote for another.
Second, take a look at the policies and track records of the various parties. What has each party voted for and against in the past? What will they be likely to do if they’re elected this time? Most of the policy talk in the last few weeks has been about capital gains tax or the likelihood of tax cuts, but there is a huge range of policies that each party have announced gradually since the beginning of this year. Go back through the news and the party websites to check them out, because those policies are the best way of figuring out what parties would do with the power of government.
Finally, your friends and family can be a great source of information, but don’t outsource your decision-making to the passions or arguments of others. Passion can be very convincing, but it is no substitute for getting yourself clued up on what each party has to offer. Think about the long-term impact each party’s ideas might have, not just for you, but for the whole country.
Democracy is only as strong as our motivation to take part, and our willingness to make the effort to ensure our choice is a wise one. This Saturday, choose, and choose wisely.