Direct democracy: key to the youth vote?

How do we get young voters enthralled by democracy? File photo.

Direct democracy is being mooted by one Tauranga candidate as a possible way of encouraging young people to vote.

Independent Rusty Kane thinks the introduction of binding referenda on key legislation would give voters – particularly the young – more of a stake in their government.

“Politicians would still debate legislation, but the final vote would rest with the people,” says Rusty.

Voter turnout in the Tauranga electorate in 2014 was 79.22 per cent, slightly above the national average of 76.77 per cent.

In the 18-24 bracket, 55.83 per cent of voters enrolled in the Tauranga electorate went to the polls, much less than the national average of 62.73 per cent.

Rusty says if people had an ‘actual say’ in the way the country is run, there would be more participation from the community.

“Once people are involved, and know what they vote on becomes law, then voting becomes part of their psyche.”

Former United Future MP and current Tauranga City Councillor Larry Baldock has promoted referenda in the past, including one to repeal the ‘anti-smacking bill’ passed by the previous Labour government.

“We can’t become like Switzerland overnight, but I think citizens ought to have the power to hold their elected representatives accountable when they need to. Otherwise we only have democracy every three years.

“I think it would increase the vote across the board. If you had referenda alongside elections, I think more people would vote – if they knew the referenda were binding.”

New Zealand First list MP Clayton Mitchell says his party has always believed in binding referenda, and that it is an important part of real democracy – something he alleges this government doesn’t follow.

Green Party candidate for Tauranga Emma-Leigh Hodge believes civic education in schools would be a better route to engaging young voters.

“After the 2011 election the Electoral Commission, the select committee review of that election, and a series of public submissions all concluded the government should formalise a place for civics and citizenship studies in our education curriculum.

“Despite being clearly identified as a key barrier to young people’s engagement in politics, we are still waiting. My own interest in politics was only sparked at university. That’s not good enough, and civics in schools is a key part of the Greens education policy for that reason.”

Tauranga ACT Party candidate Stuart Pedersen believes the best way to engage young voters is to talk about the things that matter to them, as well as using modern technology.

“When it comes to voting, young voters are not impressed by a paper-based system. The technological change we need is for blockchain technology to enable secure online voting at general elections and by-elections.

“We have a representative democracy because we recognise public policy decisions are usually complex, and the common sense of voters, informed by the media, is insufficient to ensure good decisions. You don’t have a dog and bark, and ‘direct democracy’ would be exactly that.

“Our chosen representatives, working through all the nuanced issues using long established select committee and parliamentary processes, with expert input from officials, should consistently give better results.

“You could say as Churchill did, that representative democracy is the worst political system in the world, apart from all the others.”

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Posted on 15-09-2017 19:39 | By morepork

I have spent almost my entire working life in the computer field. Started programming on mainframes back in the 1960s and progressed to corporate IT and Management consultancy for major corporations in Europe and around the world. Your post reminded me of a Sci-Fi story I read many years ago about a computer that was supposed to have the "sum total of Human Knowledge". The President of Earth was invited to the unveiling and to ask it the first question: "Is there a God?" The lights flashed, the relays clicked and the answer boomed out: "There is NOW!" I don’t believe that Human frailty dooms us all to bad Government. We CAN make it better and it will be an iterative evolving process. There are good decent people of vision who are NOT greedy and genuinely want to make a difference. It isn’t all darkness...but it needs time.


Posted on 13-09-2017 18:11 | By Papamoaner

The problem is that we will always have those things you mention as long as we involve humans. The alternative is computer governance which presents even more serious risks, as predicted by notable science fiction authors down history. Notably Fred Hoyle as recent as the 1950’s (remember "A for Andromeda")? Incidentally, some of those science fiction writers were not to be sneezed at. Indeed, Fred Hoyle was an eminent scientist and physicist, and not a bad engineer either. All that said, human frailty might eventually force computers into politics. I myself have previously joked that when computers become fully intuitive and render humans redundant, they will next render each other redundant. The sole survivor or its remains will be proof to the next species that there "really is a god"

Democracy Here ? Give me a break.

Posted on 13-09-2017 17:08 | By tutae.kuri

The only democracy we have is the 3 minutes every 3 years it takes to put our ticks on the voting papers! We vote in a bunch of monkeys to run the zoo and they only replace the ones that were in place before, nothing changes does it ?The rest of the time they run the country with no thought beyond the next 3 year cycle.Quite right Morepork, there is no equality in the system at the moment. Will there ever be a change?

Democracy? Here?

Posted on 13-09-2017 15:52 | By morepork

I don’t think so. We don’t have a democracy, we have a bunch of politicians all doing deals behind closed doors to see who can extract the most from the system. Democracy would mean a level playing field, where everybody is equal under the law, regardless of ethnicity, skin colour, religion, gender, or any other discriminatory attribute. It would mean true social justice where people who need help get it, without fear or favour. The past, and the errors of it need to be learnt from, compensated for, then buried. We need to have a FUTURE and, at the moment we are a long way from getting it.