Voting is sexy, polite, easy ... and a privilege

Liz Breslin lists 10 good reasons to vote in the local elections.

Yes, it's true the local elections lack the kapow of the nationwide political circus, or of texting your preferences for New Zealand's Got Talent or The Block, but your local representatives perform some pretty fundamental duties - for you.

So here are 10 good reasons to make sure you get engaged, read about the candidates and return the ticked boxes (or numbered preferences) on your voting papers by October 12.

1. Democracy is a privilege

If you're rolling your eyes at this obvious starter, please consider this.

We are so lucky that we can be so blase as to choose whether or not to vote.

People have died for the right. People have killed.

In more countries than not, voting is a democratic dream.

At the other extreme, Australia made it mandatory to vote in the 1920s after particularly low electoral turnouts.

You can get fined there if you don't show at the polling booth or send your forms back in. We don't need that here - we just need people to vote because they can.

2. Your vote makes a difference

OK, so very few elections are won and lost on a single vote, but lots of singles make multiples and make a difference.

Solitary becomes solidarity, if you like.

3. Waste not want not

They've printed the papers, they've mailed them to you.

You might as well fill them out because the alternative is landfill.

(Assuming that if you're too busy, or lazy to vote, you're also too busy, or lazy to recycle paper.)

4. Voting makes you sexy

Yes, I made that up.

I can't find a single research paper that says so.

But I believe it's true.

Not necessarily the act of voting, but giving enough of a stuff to vote.

Empowerment. That's sexy.

5. Spend time to save time

Good local governance can actually make a positive difference to your life.

As the LGNZ website points out, ''the people who sit around the council or community and local board tables get to make important decisions that affect our daily life. After all, without good transport planning would we be able to get to work each morning?''

A few minutes reading candidate information and ticking boxes can help shape your community the way you want it.

6. It's polite

Some of the people standing have spent sleepless nights worrying about the issues they're driven to address.

Some have spent time and money plastering their faces over your verges and in your mailboxes.

Some have opened their hearts and shared their principles and aspirations with you.

All in the hope that you'll open an envelope, tick their name in a box, seal it up and send it away.

And let them work for you.

7. It's easy

Yes, I know everything is digital whiizzydoo these days but there's a certain charm about a pen, a piece of paper and a prepaid envelope.

If you're really adverse to the paper approach and think it should all be done online, please try and think of it as some kind of kitsch retro engagement experience this time around (as hopefully there'll be other options by 2016).

You might even enjoy it.

8. Grumbling rights

If you vote, you get to legitimately gripe about the decisions your local councillors make for you over the next three years.

If your chosen candidates are successfully elected and go on to disappoint you, you can say things like ''I never would have voted for her if I'd thought she'd turn around and do that; she'll never get my vote again''.

On the other hand, if your preferred candidates don't make it, you can go for the tack of ''Well, he wouldn't have made a hash of the issue like that.''

You voted, they're your representatives, so you have the power to get peeved.

9. Beating the Americans

It would be great to wallop them decisively at something this year.

Voter turnout is notoriously low in the US.

In a recent round of mayoral elections, at least two cities enticed less than 10% of their population to vote.

San Francisco came in with the highest participation level in a 2011 survey - at 43%.

We can do better, Kiwis! Let's win this one.

10. It's better than the alternative

It's your local government.

If you don't vote, your representatives may think you don't care what they do. And that's a very dangerous thing to let a politician believe.


Liz Breslin is a Lake Hawea Flat writer.


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