Government may ban voting in effort to get more people to do it

More than double the number of people who will vote in this year's local body elections have tried marijuana or urinated somewhere they shouldn't have.

More than double the number of people who will vote in this year’s local body elections have tried marijuana or urinated somewhere they shouldn’t have.

As local elections look set for the lowest turnout in decades, with many regions falling well short of 40%, the Government is exploring a number of measures to help boost turnout in an effort to give local bodies more legitimacy.

Chief amongst those measures is the idea of banning voting in local elections, something experts believe would be the most effective method of getting people to the polls.

The idea has strong support from Massey University public management lecturer Andrew Cardow, who said that if public policy has taught us anything, it’s that people are far more enthusiastic about doing something when they’re not supposed to be.

“Drugs, underage drinking, beers in the shower, public sex, drinking a bucket of your own vomit in front of a cheering crowd of scarfies. These are all things people do, not because they’re fun or worthwhile, but because they shouldn’t be doing them.”

Cardow said that while he wouldn’t want to see to an uptick in “illict” voting activity, such as kids voting behind the swimming pool at lunchtime, or hotboxing votes in their parents’ car, turnout was at such a low level that “at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how they vote, so long as they do.”

Surveys have shown that people in countries where voting isn’t legal show very high levels of interest in trying it, while those who have voted before have described the experience as “underwhelming” and “not as good as you’d think.”

In countries like China, voting is perceived to have positive impacts, while those in the United States and the United Kingdom largely view voting as having mostly negative outcomes.

“The simple reality is that voting is viewed much more favourably in places that don’t have it,” said Cardow, “and we could very easily engineer the same views here by just getting rid of it.”

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is reportedly open to banning voting, she has expressed a desire to be “compassionate” about how the law is enforced.

The National Party, meanwhile, is likely to take a hard-line approach, and is already preparing material accusing Labour of being soft on voting.

Cardow says this divide could actually help the policy achieve its ends, with hardline anti-voting stances actually serving to proliferate the behaviour.

“If our politicians start to come down very hard on voting, that can drive peoples’ voting habits underground, and they often find it more difficult to get help,” he said. “This can lead to an endless cycle of voting that may consume their entire lives.”