Ranking candidates rapidly becomes a very complex business requiring spreadsheets – surely it should not be this hard to vote?
Waiting, waiting … I’ve read all the various online analysis tools about my local body candidates. The family does a walkabout and survey of the local billboards. One guy includes a picture of his toddler and compares her leaking nappies to Wellington pipe woes – this is scraping the bottom of the barrel for electioneering if you ask me. Tory Whanau we agree takes great pictures and extra points for being a woman in a sea of men for mayor. We go home and read up about the vote 1, 2, requests from regional council candidates Thomas Nash and Yadana Saw – political geeks that we are.
Later my 13-year-old and I rate the defacements that appear on the billboards in our neighbourhood. The cock and balls on Paul Eagle’s face, while lacking creativity, got points from the teen for “old school charm”.
The terrible tin contraption on a wobbly post doing service as our letterbox has been checked a number of times. Still no voting papers.
Voting papers arrive! The kids seize on the candidate pamphlet with glee – after the various colourful pamphlets we got in the mail they are excited about what is in the profile book. They don’t need to read far to find the most unhinged candidate profile. That someone would pay $500 to become a candidate and write a pitch that is mainly in equations is all part of the fun of local body elections.
The family group chat gets a good workout as my siblings share their rankings for mayoral candidates and local councillors. We discuss how on earth to rank five people who are all equally problematic. Don’t rank at all or rank everyone trying to find the least odd one? As a family highly invested in protected bike lanes so our kids can get about Wellington more independently, someone asks, “How do we know who is anti-cycling if they don’t actually come out and say it?”
There are a lot of barriers between getting voting papers, filling them in and posting them – life just gets in the way. On top of that there is no single day ‘event’ to make it feel like an important or significant thing we do as citizens.
Ranking candidates rapidly becomes a very complex business requiring spreadsheets as there are some fairly opaque profiles. In the end my brother uses a colour-coded system with Post-it notes: Green for legit party people, yellow for independents with blurbs that suggest mainly thinking straight, blue for independents with “who the f**k knows” blurbs and red – well, there is a reason it is red.
I vote! And yes I rank everyone because that is the kind of person I am. I seal up the envelope.
Damn it! I put the papers in the envelope the wrong way so the return address can’t be seen. Reopen and stick down with Sellotape.
September 21 to September 27
Ride and walk around town for a week looking for a damn postbox. Every time I have to physically post something, it’s inevitable the poor letter languishes at the bottom of my bag for days as I go on a treasure hunt of local streets for a postbox.
On Sunday I ride past what feels like the last remaining postbox in my area of town and post the now very battered voting papers. Success!
Surely it should not be this hard to vote? I wonder if the voting turnout in local body elections is low, in part, because it is just so damn hard? When you send out questionnaires in research you are thrilled if you get 30 percent returned. Local body elections are at its most basic, just filling out a form and posting it back. There are a lot of barriers between getting voting papers, filling them in and posting them – life just gets in the way. On top of that there is no single day ‘event’ to make it feel like an important or significant thing we do as citizens. In the general elections we get to turn up on a certain day, there are cultural norms and rituals that are associated with the significance of being able to vote in a democracy. These are the sorts of things humans love as social beings.
In summary, I suggest more fun and less reliance on posting letters. Until then do vote – and locate your nearest postbox way before October 8 cut-off.