Why Voting Matters

Elections matter because who leads and who gets to decide important stuff matter. There are some who say it doesn't matter whoever  is elected because not much changes, or that the 'real' power lies elsewhere ,or that politicians routinely lie, saying one thing before an election and doing differently afterwards.

There is a small amount of truth in all of those propositions: enough to keep the believers satisfied, but not enough overall to make not voting or not taking an intelligent interest in world or local affairs a responsible option.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don't think the world is run by a secret cabal of...well take your pick, Jews, Masons, Catholics, capitalists, the mafia, Chinese secret societies, Scientologists, world government advocates, aliens,  or some other malevolent group of secret world rulers. (Sometimes I have doubts about dismissing aliens so freely).

And when it comes to the Wellington City Council, there may well be "dark forces" at work, but I for one have yet to see them. On Tuesday various candidates in the Lambton Ward heard from property investors how they felt ignored and undervalued by the council and wanted more say and more weight given to their views. 

Whatever one thinks about investors, this was a genuine expression of their own feelings of powerlessness. I told them that they were not the only group in our community who felt like that.  Many sporting codes feel that their interests have been neglected, ignored and sidelined.

I defend the right not to vote, and I don't subscribe to the view that if you don't vote you can't complain afterwards. That's nonsense. No one gives up their right to be heard on any subject because they didn't vote. And not voting because you are comfortable with what is happening, or because it doesn't impact on your life, or because you don't like any of the candidates are all acceptable.

The case for voting ought not to be made on the basis of fear or guilt. There is a positive case for voting. In every election from Parliament to a city council to who runs your sports or leisure club, it matters. Three reasons: one is that elected people generally decide how much to spend, on what it is to be spent and who is to pay. Those decisions are expressed as taxes, rates and subs. Those decisions matter.

Secondly, having good people running things is important. Good means people with honest and honourable intentions, people you can trust to do the right thing.

Thirdly, a mix of skills and experiences in any decisionmaking body is positive, because the interests of all the different sections of the nation, the city or the membership of the club get considered. That makes for better decisions and more cohesion. Unity is positive even if unanimity is not always achievable.

So far only about 15 percent of the voters in Wellington City have cast a vote. Many, many more should do so.