22 Sep 2017

Hundreds of thousands still not enrolled

9:51 am on 22 September 2017

More than 340,000 people are still not enrolled to vote, a day out from the election, and just under half of them are under 25.

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There has been record numbers of advanced votes cast, but Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis said it was not clear if this would lead to increased turnout. Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

While record numbers are voting early, with about 800,000 having cast their ballot by the end of Wednesday, it is unclear whether it will lead to more people entering the booth overall.

Voter turnout at the 2014 election was 72 percent, the second lowest recorded.

Official figures show a recent boost in the number of young people enrolled to vote compared to the last election.

The Electoral Commission said between 23 August and 20 September, the number of 18 to 24-year-olds on the roll was up 25.8 percent over the same period in 2014, with 13,512 signing up compared to 10,738.

For 25 to 29-year-olds, the increase was 35.6 percent, and overall enrolments were up 39.2 percent compared to that period in the last election.

Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis said it was not clear if early voting itself would improve turnout, but he thought there might be other reasons why more people might take part in this election.

Professor Andrew Geddis of Otago University's Law School.

Andrew Geddis Photo: Supplied: Otago University

"There's reason to think that turnout should be higher this time than in 2014, simply because the race has been closer this time - at least that's what the opinion polls appear to show - and usually close elections tend to have an increased turnout, so now we'll just wait and see if that follows through."

This election was the first time people were able to enrol and early vote at the same time.

Prof Geddis said this was a deliberate attempt by the Electoral Commission to improve turnout.

"In spite of that, we're still seeing a depressingly low enrolment rate amongst especially younger voters, people under 25, so it'll be interesting to see whether it's fully taken advantage of and whether we can get the enrolment and voting rates ... up to where we would like to see them."

Laura O'Connell-Rapira, the co-founder of the youth engagement organisation Rock Enrol, said young people seemed to like early voting.

"I think convenience is a really big thing, a lot of people have to work on Saturdays, especially a lot of young people, who are in university for example.

"Saturday might be the one day that they can work in order to get their income to pay their rent."

But Ms O'Connell-Rapira said the big challenge was getting to the people who were not even enrolled.

She said they were most likely to be the young people who did not normally vote - Māori, Pasifika, people from low income and low education backgrounds, and people who were in rural areas.

"It's kind of the people who are already marginalised in our democracy and our society."

Long lines for voting at Auckland Uni

There was a long line outside one polling booth yesterday afternoon at the University of Auckland.

Student Melissa Hu said making it easy to vote and putting polling booths in places where young people hung out did matter.

"If it was somewhere else - I'd still vote - but I know a lot of young people would be much less inclined to vote."

Ms Hu said she thought there were a lot more young people talking about politics, especially on social media.

Another student in the line, Philip Ji, decided to vote after he got a Snapchat from a friend who was further up the line.

"Literally my mate's just up ahead and I saw his Snapchat and he was like, 'voting time'. I've been looking for a booth for ages, so this is where you vote."

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