Young voters value ‘strong leadership’

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Voter turnout in the 18-24 age group is traditionally low. John Cosgrove looks at factors that might be affecting this and whether the Covid-19 economic impact or the recent changes of the leader of the National Party will have any impact.

Nationally, the 2017 general election had a very good voter turnout with 79.01% of all registered people voting, but the 18›24 age group was a bit lower with only 69% voting.

In the Clutha-Southland electorate, voters from age 18 to 24 had the lowest turnout but still came out with a healthy 66%. Most of the other age demographics in the electorate rose to more than 80% and even, in the case of the 65-69 age bracket, more than 90%.

Clinton woman Lydia Pope, 22, said the ‘‘Jacinda effect’’ meant she and many of her friends stepped up to vote in 2017.

This year, however, they were not talking about politics as much; at present, surviving the Covid-19 crisis mattered more to them as young farming professionals.

“We do talk about politics socially but the virus’ impact on our work means more to us at the moment.

‘‘We are all looking for strong leadership for the future of our country and for one of the party leaders to step down suddenly before the elections will affect how we see the long term value of that party,” she said.

In Balclutha, George Rutter  (20) said he was thinking about the pandemic and what his community would look like coming out of the crisis.

‘‘I am concerned about the upcoming elections but what we need right now is strong leadership. . . plus strong representation that will benefit the Clutha district,’’ he said.

First-time voter Oli Blackbourn (19), of Milton, said having strong leaders in charge on both sides of the aisle aisle was important to him.

‘‘We definitely need a united Government more than anything right now so I would love to see them all working together . . . With the National Party leader stepping down it definitely throws a spanner in the works, it would all depend on who replaces him . . .and how well they can convince the country they’re the right person for the job,’’ he said.

The Electoral Commission said it had a variety of measures in place to encourage young people to get out and vote.

Community engagement manager Mona-Pauline Mangakahia said the commission had recently recruited 30 youth advocates nationwide — most Maori and Pasifika — whose role would be to educate their peers about the importance of voting and how to do it.

They would use social media platforms to do this. They would also visit places where young people commonly gathered, as well as universities and other centres of learning, to get across their message, she said.

The commission had also developed a range of advertising content targeted at young people, explaining the steps to enrolling and voting and motivating young people to vote on September 19.