Saturday, August 07, 2010

Taking a stand

New Zealand’s local elections are coming up. At the moment, there’s a drive on to get people registered to vote and, at the same time, they’re recruiting candidates for the elections.

Unlike the US, in New Zealand both citizens and permanent residents who are 18 and above are eligible to register vote. Actually, voter registration is mandatory in New Zealand, though voting itself is not (unlike Australia). The rolls close on August 20.

Running for office is also quite open. According to the “Making a Stand” booklet (link to the PDF) prepared by Local Government New Zealand:

“You must be a New Zealand citizen and enrolled on the parliamentary electoral roll (anywhere in New Zealand) and have lived at your current address for at least one month. You do not need to live in the area in which you wish to stand.”

Getting on the ballot is more involved:

“You will need two people to nominate you (on the official nomination form) and send your completed form to the electoral officer for your local council. You must consent to your nomination going forward (by signing the nomination form) and you cannot nominate yourself. Those who nominate you must be over 18 years old and enrolled to vote in the area you wish to stand in. When you send in the nomination form you will need to pay a $200 (incl GST) deposit.

"The deposit may be refunded depending on how many votes you receive in the election and the particular type of election. The deposit is refunded if the number of votes you receive is greater than 25 per cent of the lowest successful candidate for that particular election (for First Past the Post elections) or greater than 25 per cent of the final quota as determined in the last iteration (for Single Transferable Voting elections).”

Among other things in there is the reference to two different voting systems. That’s because both systems are used in local elections in New Zealand, and Local Government New Zealand has a lot of information about all that.

Once the rolls and nominations close, the ballots are mailed out, because local elections are conducted by postal ballot. The Voting documents will be delivered between 17-22 September, and all ballots are due back by 12 noon on 9 October. The results will be announced between 11-20 October, and the new elected officials take office around November 1.

This year, of course, eight local councils in the Auckland region will cease to exist and the new Auckland Council will come into being instead. That’s a very big deal, and it makes all this stuff far more important, a much bigger deal, than it’s ever been for Aucklanders before. Hopefully, they’ll take that responsibility and importance to heart.


Roger Owen Green said...

There is a candidate for NYS Atty General, Kathleen (?) Rice, who didn't vote from 1984 until 2002. I find it interesting that she now considers herself a crusader to those young people, hoping they don't make the same mistake.

Reed said...

I'm always comparing NZ and the US (hard not to) and I'm struck by how much better an approximation NZ is to a democracy than the US.

Individuals have a far greater ability to make a real impact on policy here. I've seen it first hand with Sec 92a and the software patents issues.

--I was politically lazy when I lived in the US and I feel bad about that now.

But size matters and I think the US is really just too large.

Arthur Schenck said...

Roger: Sheesh, not voting for nearly 20 years?! Still, redemption should be possible for MOST people…

Reed: I agree. Elected officials are much more accessible. For example, lots of folks I know have met one prime minister or another (I've only been at campaign events with Helen Clark), and I once had an extended chat with former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Dr. Michael Cullen.

The copyright thing is a good example of government bending to the will of the people, and the current government backing down on plans to mine conservation land is another.

But they still rammed through the Auckland Reorganisation Bill with no say form Aucklanders and they're planning on ramming through changes to employment law. So, sometimes politicians just do what they want, even here.

Still, government is very accessible here, and so is becoming involved oneself. As a hardened old cynic, that's something I'm really glad to see.

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