Saturday, November 08, 2008

I voted today

(Originally published as a diary on Daily Kos, and aimed primarily at Americans)

Today I voted in the New Zealand general election. I did not have to queue. Instead, the whole process took less than five minutes: walk in, present my EasyVote card (a special ID issued by the Chief Electoral Office, to make it easy for them to cross me off on the roll), get a ballot, tick two spaces, and stick it in a box. At the end of it, they gave me a sticker. It was easy, quick, and painless. And comparing it with reports of American queuing for six hours to vote, have to ask: why do you make it so hard on yourselves?

One reason I've been given for the queues is that in some areas there was only a single polling place serving 15,000 people. This is astounding. My electorate has 49 polling places for 58,000 enrolled voters - or one for every 1,200 people (and I could have voted in any of them). Other electorates are similar. Where-ever there are people, or a school, we stick a polling booth. How hard can it be?

It gets better. I was actually travelling to Wellington today, and I could have voted in any of the polling places in any of the small towns I passed through on the way. It would have meant a trivial amount of extra fuss - booths only have rolls for their electorate, so it would have meant making a declaration that I was enrolled, and it would have meant a delay in counting my vote (as it would need to be checked against the electoral roll to see if it was valid), but it would not have been difficult. I would not have needed a form signed in triplicate in my own blood to prove that I couldn't vote any other way.

Because it is easy to vote (and our elections happen on a weekend, and there is a statutory requirement on employers to give people paid time off to vote), New Zealanders do. Our turnout last election was 81%. Our turnout this time might not be so high - it fluctuates - but should at least be in the high 70's. I compare this to the US turnout of 64%, and again ask myself: why do you make it so hard on yourselves?