Councils concerned over low vote-returns as local elections loom

The billboards have been up for months, but when it comes to putting pen to voting-paper and taking that paper to a post or ballot box, voters aren't following through. 

With just over a week until polling day for local elections, New Zealanders seem to be holding off. 

"I just moved houses, so they're making me send back my forms and change my address and stuff which is actually a mission like it's so hard to vote," one potential voter told Newshub.

In a bid to make the process easier, Auckland Council took ballot boxes into workplaces today - including Auckland Zoo and Countdown.  

"We really want to help make things easier for our team and we know that voter turnout in local elections isn't great," says Lara Squires, head of digital marketing at Countdown.

Auckland Council fears the turnout is tracking so low this year that there'll be fewer than last time. 

"The turnout thus far is lower than last elections - I'm anxiously looking at the numbers, it's the same trend around the country apparently," says Marguerite Delbet, general manager of democracy services at Auckland Council.

As of yesterday, in Auckland, 12.8 percent of voters had returned their papers, compared to 16.7 percent at the same time last election.  

In Wellington, 10 percent had returned their vote - that's 7 percent less than in 2016. 

Christchurch has had 15.4 percent come back, compared to 19.6 percent.

And in Dunedin, 15.8 percent have been handed in - that's down from 19.8 percent in 2016. 

So far, the places where the voting rate is up are Hamilton, Timaru, and Otorohanga. 

"I think there's a general disaffection with local body voting, postal voting is becoming increasingly obsolete," says Delbet. "We ran a survey last election and the overwhelming majority of Aucklanders said they would prefer to vote online."

Without an online voting option, the only way to have your say is to post your vote by next Tuesday, or take your completed forms straight to a ballot box before polling finishes at midday on October 12.


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