Friday, October 04, 2013


Votes are trickling in in the local body elections, and naturally the conversation has turned to the number of people not voting. Stuff's headline-writers call this "apathy", but the actual article takes a different tack:

Massey University academic Dr Andy Asquith, a local government and public management specialist, said there was no silver bullet to local turnouts that have steadily been falling despite politicians offering up "laudable words".

He said the disconnect between councils and their constituents, confusion over the role of elected members, and the public's lack of understanding about the importance of voting were all factors in declining turnouts.

Local politicians had two roles: to be "our voice", and making sure the organisation was well governed, but often became mired down in the latter, he said.

Unmentioned, but an enormous part of the problem: local body standing orders which view elected members as administrators rather than representatives, and prevent them from taking public stands on issues because doing so is "pre-determination" or a "conflict of interest" and excludes them from voting. Our local representatives are invisible because anti-democratic rules force them to be. They don't represent us because they forbid themselves to. And then they complain at us about how half of us don't see them as worth even the time to vote...

As with Parliament, if you want people to vote, you actually need to inspire them and offer them change. Local authorities don't, and those candidates who want to can't. Its no wonder they have a crisis of legitimacy...