Every three years the boards start going up, signs go up on the fences, pamphlets in the mailboxes, door knocking to handing out more pamphlets and, sometimes, if you’re in the right place at the right time, you just might catch a politician walking around with an entourage handing out even more pamphlets. It is election season, a time for you to exercise your democratic right to cast your vote on who you think would best run our country.
A decade ago, if you had asked me about elections, I would have shrugged my shoulders and moved on. Voting wasn’t a priority for the under 30s, we represent over 60 percent of non-voters, which in the last election was almost 700,000 New Zealanders.
As I write this think piece on my Apple Mac Book Pro, I think to myself how a company like Apple enticed me, and many others in my age group, to purchase an overpriced laptop that I probably don’t need. Why can’t that same strategy be applied to elections and entice young people to vote? It occurred to me that I didn’t purchase my Mac Book Pro because of its memory capacity, retina display, or processor speed. It’s because with every new upgrade there are more features, better designs and increased performance. Therefore, a better laptop would mean my output on the product would be more efficient and more effective. The buy-in for me was not on the ‘What’ which is the specs of the product, but it was on the ‘How’. How would this product be beneficial for me? Well, it would increase performance, increase efficiency, increase effectiveness, or so the advertisements made me think. It also helps that Apple has a prominent reputation for its products. Apple marketing shows consumers how their products can make you better.
If I was to apply the same thought to elections for an average New Zealander under the age of 30 years old who was not in tune with politics, I would barely know enough to scratch the surface of the specs. Maybe the names of the leaders of major parties and the local MPs running in the area, but to drill down deeper to what these parties and individuals bring to the table would be asking for too much. If we don’t know or understand what these politicians are offering, then we wouldn’t question how these policies are beneficial for me, my family, or my community. If we are not aware of the benefits of these policies, then where is the buy-in or the incentive to vote? There is none.
People still do vote even without knowing what is on offer, and elections turn into a popularity contest. Can you imagine what would happen to Apple if their marketing strategy was to depend on their popularity without innovation and upgrades? That popularity would slowly dissipate if their products were not keeping up with the changing market. Just like the popularity of a political party or an MP is not enough to usher our country through the changing facets of society exacerbated by Covid-19. We need innovative and upgraded policies that can continue to serve the betterment of our country through these unprecedented times.
Elections 2020 is not only focussed on Covid-19 recovery, but is also accompanied by two referendums that we get to vote on: the Cannabis legislation and the Euthanasia Act. These legislations will have long-lasting effects on our society, and it is up to us right now to determine what the future looks like. Now more than ever we need the 440,000 young people who like me would have shrugged their shoulders and moved on to cast their vote. Let your ‘How’ be your driving force. How will this impact me? How will this impact my children? My grandchildren? How would this impact the society I leave behind for the next generation? If you want to answer your ‘How’ you need to know the ‘What’. Find out what these referendums mean for you. Find out what policies these parties and MPs bring to the table. In the ever-changing environment that we are in, now more than ever we cannot rely on the popular vote. Be informed and cast your vote.
Here is the link to the official New Zealand Government website for the referendum:
End of Life Choice: referendums.govt.nz/endoflifechoice/index.html
By Ana Ika, SPPU Social Policy Analyst/Advocate