Youth voter turnout in local elections remains low - less than a third

By David Williams (he/him)


Many young people are not participating in local elections, with less than a third voting in 2019. Only between 20 and 30 percent of people aged 18-24 voted in the last local elections. Meanwhile, 61 percent of those aged 76-80 did vote. Debate spoke to three groups of first year AUT students, and the consensus was uniform: they don’t plan on voting in this year’s coming elections. One first year occupational therapy student didn’t know there were local elections or mayoral elections happening.

“I need to pay a bit more attention.” Another first year student knew about the local elections, but wasn't enrolled or planning to vote. “I didn’t know it was a thing.” Moreover, three first-year business students weren’t interested in politics at all. “There are too many problems, we don’t have time for that.” Auckland mayoral candidate Efeso Collins told Debate earlier this year that this is often what local politics is like.

“It's the gentle voices that are often on the margins that we need to make specific efforts to reach. If you look at the data - if you are younger, browner, poorer, you tend not to vote,” he says. “The wealthier you are, if you've got stable housing, then you tend to vote.

And there's a huge discrepancy there.” Collins says young people need to vote if they want to shape the future of their city. We want lots of people's views represented and if you look at the challenges we have around climate change, it's young people that are leading the charge.”

Local Government New Zealand says local elections aren’t just for ratepayers. Chief Executive Susan Freeman-Greene says, “Research tells us that the younger you are, the less likely it is that you’ll be voting in a local election.” But she says voting is important and young people should take advantage of such an opportunity. “Local elections are a great opportunity for young voters to capitalise on that momentum by having a say on who best represents them.”

Voters should have already received their papers. If voters miss the postal cut off, which is the 4th of October, they can still pop their vote into one of the many ballot boxes up and down the country by midday 8th October. They can be found in public places such as supermarkets, council buildings and libraries.

Former civil rights leader John Lewis says, “The vote is precious. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it.” Visit Auckland Council’s local election webpage to learn more about your local candidates, how you can vote and where you can drop your ballots.