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Speaker: Compulsory voting and election turnout

141 Responses

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  • Steve Parks, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Chris, about go to bed (i.e. fall asleep at keyboard), but short answer for now - do you think Anders Breivik should be able to vote?

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Steve Parks,

    do you think Anders Breivik should be able to vote?

    Yes.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    The situation before the most recent law change was that convicted criminals serving a prison sentence of more than three years at the time of an election could not vote. One argument for setting the limit there was, presumably, that voting should be limited to those who could reasonably expect to be part of wider NZ society within the next government term. Another argument was increased fairness: anyone sentenced to a prison sentence of that duration would miss at least one chance to vote.

    A criminal who would be rejoining society within that period could vote.

    This is the subset of convicted criminals whose right to vote was removed in the new law.

    Fairness has also been reduced, and replaced by a level of arbitrariness, in that, if you’re serving a prison sentence of two years at the time of an election, you can’t vote, whereas if you serve the same sentence in full between elections, you don’t lose the right to vote at all. (N.B.: a sentence of home detention doesn’t remove the right to vote.)

    Personally, I’m open to arguments that all convicted criminals should retain voting rights; I merely note that that was not the status quo.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1923 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Steve Parks,

    So who are the people currently not allowed to vote that you think should be able to?

    All the ones who can understand what voting is. I've said this before but I'm happy to say it again, that I'm happy with a geographical restriction (only people legally resident in NZ), but beyond that I don't see any reason to deny the franchise to those who want it.

    I prefer my arbitrary lines to have some kind of rationale. Saying "it's easier to measure" or "the media will accept it" or, worse, "the existing voters will accept it" doesn't seem a very sensible stance to me. Why is a 15 year old taxpayer not able to vote, but an 18 year old in prison able to? Why is someone in the final stages of dementia able to vote but someone involuntarily committed for depression not able to? Why is someone with a mental age of ten but who happens to be twenty able to vote, but not vice versa? Why is someone working for the UN in Syria not able to vote, but someone in Afghanistan for the army able to?

    I'd like to see universal suffrage, not "universal (conditions apply)" suffrage. Every person should be able to vote for their government, times however many governments claim jurisdiction. So, for example, the US claims a mandate to impose an acceptable government in Iraq, therefore everyone in Iraq gets to vote for US presidents and federal members. Likewise Taiwanese in Chinese ones (hey, you claim the territory, an important step is granting your citizens there the vote, right?)

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I prefer my arbitrary lines to have some kind of rationale. Saying “it’s easier to measure” or “the media will accept it” or, worse, “the existing voters will accept it” doesn’t seem a very sensible stance to me. Why is a 15 year old taxpayer not able to vote, but an 18 year old in prison able to? Why is someone in the final stages of dementia able to vote but someone involuntarily committed for depression not able to? Why is someone with a mental age of ten but who happens to be twenty able to vote, but not vice versa? Why is someone working for the UN in Syria not able to vote, but someone in Afghanistan for the army able to?

    I'm not sure if many of those counterpoints are accurate. If you were sentenced after December 2010 you can no longer vote from prison (source) and you can vote from Syria, as long as you've been to NZ in the past 3 years.

    The removal of prison voting rights is doubly stupid, even if you think prisoners shouldn't be able to vote. They're not denied their right to vote, they're removed from the electoral roll. So not only can they not vote, they need to re-add themselves to the roll after they get out. It's ridiculous to make electoral staff work hard to enrol people and then take people off when they'll be able to vote in the future. Sure, deny them the right to vote if you want to be a fascist, but leave them on the roll so they can easily vote when they get out.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I'm not sure if many of those counterpoints are accurate

    You seem to have a Key-esque understanding of "many", in that a possible interpretation issue with one of four examples does not mean "many inaccuracies" in conventional english. So, to be pedantic, "there exist prisoners who can vote". Happy?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Moz,

    All the ones who can understand what voting is.

    But how do you define that? And more importantly, how do you measure it or impose the necessary test to determine who gets to vote and who doesn't?

    We impose minimum ages for many things - driving, having sex, drinking alcohol, military service, criminal responsibility (although we do have some strangely outdated, barbaric laws around that), getting married, etc. It's arbitrary, yes, but it has a rationale, and that rationale is pragmatism - at what age can we expect young people generally to have the maturity necessary to make this decision? And yes, sure, there are plenty of well-informed 13-year olds with the maturity necessary to cast a vote, and no shortage of ignorant and hopelessly immature 65-year olds, but we've got to draw a line somewhere, and a minimum age is the simplest way to do that.

    And:

    I think people in Syria have bigger things to worry about than deciding who to vote for in NZ.

    You have your Taiwan/China example backwards. Taiwanese already have the same voting rights as Mainlanders in PRC elections. But considering Ma Yingjeou is president of the Republic of China, which still claims Hong Kong, Macau, the Mainland, all the same disputed islands in the East and South China Seas as the PRC, and Mongolia, perhaps voting rights in "Taiwan" (i.e. Republic of China) elections should be extended to residents of Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China and Mongolia? Now that would make for quite an interesting situation... ...and a lot of very unhappy pan-Green voters in Taiwan... ...and lonely, bored election officials in Mongolia... ...and I wonder if the CCP would allow such an election? It would almost certainly result in a reunificationist landslide, but it would mean at least temporarily suspending its claim to have won the 3rd Chinese Civil War and ceding to the KMT... ...all fun and games until somebody loses an isle.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    and a minimum age is the simplest way to do that.

    I explcitly said that I didn't consider "it's simple" as sufficient reason to do it. It would be even simpler to run a one man, one vote system where each voter nominated their successor when they wanted to retire. Most of us don't consider that acceptable either.

    Yes, it's difficult to decide who is competant to vote but we already have complex rules and case law on the issue, so needing that is not an effective argument against having it. Unless you're suggesting that we change the current law to a strictly age-based one? I'm proposing that we extend the competance provisions to everyone in the name of "universal suffrage", partly to simplify things by removing some silly edge cases.

    You have your Taiwan/China example backwards. Taiwanese already have the same voting rights as Mainlanders in PRC elections.

    I thought the PRC was the little island, not the big chunk of asia? But anyway, both sides claim all of it and then some. I'm arguing that both states (all, if we're talking about the other disputed territories) involved should therefore enfranchise all residents of the areas they claim. Obviously I also think that they should introduce democracy, that being a prerequisite for enfranchisement...

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    I think people in Syria have bigger things to worry about than deciding who to vote for in NZ.

    Again you're saying "that's hard" as a reason for not doing it. I'm pointing at a disparity and asking why it exists. If it helps, imagine you have a kiwi soldier in Syria working with a kiwi UN employee. They work side by side, and both have been there for four years. The soldier can vote, the UN worker can't. Why?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Moz,

    I explcitly said that I didn’t consider “it’s simple” as sufficient reason to do it.

    No, you didn't. You said you wanted some kind of rationale. Pragmatism of the same kind we use to set minimum ages for a whole variety of activities is a rationale, and the one I prefer, because it gets the job done with minimal fuss. It doesn't matter which system you use to decide who gets to vote and who doesn't, some people are going to unfairly miss out. I would argue that extending the franchise to all citizens over a certain minimum age (currently 18, but I'm sympathetic to arguments it should be lower) is the fairest way to decide on voting rights, as it's simple, clear, easy to understand, and minimises unfairness.

    If it helps, imagine you have a kiwi soldier in Syria working with a kiwi UN employee.

    If I were one of them I'd be more worried about not getting shot than who to vote for. But for the record, both should be allowed to vote. But I think I've already made my views on disenfranchising expats clear enough already - no citizen should lose the right to vote. Or: The only valid reason to cancel a citizen's right to vote should be death.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    No, you didn't. You said you wanted some kind of rationale

    And the very next sentence was

    Moz said: Saying "it's easier to measure" or "the media will accept it" or, worse, "the existing voters will accept it" doesn't seem a very sensible stance to me

    But then you say

    The only valid reason to cancel a citizen's right to vote should be death.

    So once they have the vote it doesn't matter what they do or what condition they're in. It's just that they don't get the vote until they reach a suitable age. Which is currently 18 in NZ, 21 in some other countries and there's no reason it shouldn't be the age when almost everyone has reached mental maturity. If you have to pick a number why not pick one that has a bit of reasoning behind it rather than just "it's a convenient number".

    I'm actually torn by that one, since the evidence we have is that mental maturity arrives between 25 and 30 for most people. But it's backed by increasing evidence (not just age of criminal action), so it'd be justifiable that way. I would prefer "can read and reason" rather than "acts responsibly", but either beats "it seemed like a good idea 150 years ago".

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Moz,

    So once they have the vote it doesn’t matter what they do or what condition they’re in.

    Yes.

    I’m actually torn by that one, since the evidence we have is that mental maturity arrives between 25 and 30 for most people.

    Oddly proving that Confucius (at least, according to what his disciples claimed he said in The Analects) got at least that one thing right. But we don't require full maturity for full participation in society on any other matter, we simply set an age at which we expect people to be mature enough.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Like what? Where do we draw the line?

    Where do we draw the line in terms of voting age? Can't we just be pragmatic about this too?

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Steve Parks,

    Can’t we just be pragmatic about this too?

    That's precisely what I was trying to do. As I wrote:

    It’s arbitrary, yes, but it has a rationale, and that rationale is pragmatism – at what age can we expect young people generally to have the maturity necessary to make this decision?

    We've currently decided 18 is the age at which we can expect people to be mature enough to decide who to vote for. I'm sympathetic to arguments for a younger voting age. But so long as we're sticking to the system of setting a minimum age, we're being pragmatic. Aren't we?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Again you’re saying “that’s hard” as a reason for not doing it. I’m pointing at a disparity and asking why it exists. If it helps, imagine you have a kiwi soldier in Syria working with a kiwi UN employee. They work side by side, and both have been there for four years. The soldier can vote, the UN worker can’t. Why?

    Because the soldier is working for the NZ government, and it's possible that they've been deployed and not able to return to NZ (in a time of war for example).

    Maybe that means the UN worker should be able to vote, but until that time, the military exemption makes sense.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Maybe that means the UN worker should be able to vote, but until that time, the military exemption makes sense.

    The military being able to vote makes sense to me. What doesn't make sense is that other absentees can't. The struggle to get the vote took millennia, and I'm always amazed at how fast people are to think taking it away is all good. It's a profound and fundamental human right, in my opinion, not immediately extinguished by the passage of an absence from our extremely remote islands.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Maybe that means the UN worker should be able to vote, but until that time, the military exemption makes sense.

    I was arguing that the soldier exemption was a reason for allowing the UN worker to vote, yes. The original context was my running through the list of disenfranchised people and pointing out irregularities like that. They exist, as far as I can tell, for every disenfranchised group except "legal residents or entitled to legally reside in NZ". I would be interested to see an exception to that, but AFAIK there isn't one. Except maybe The Queen of New Zealand, who isn't a citizen but is entitled to reside here. But she can't vote, so that's not really an exception in the right direction.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    The soldier is clearly a special case, and the fact we have an exemption for them isn't an argument for another sort of person. UN workers don't get deployed for five years without being able to return home (neither do soldiers these days, but hypothetically they could).

    Personally I'd find "anyone who comes from NZ can vote regardless of how many decades they were last here" a little bizarre, but each to their own.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    The soldier is clearly a special case, and the fact we have an exemption for them isn't an argument for another sort of person.

    I don't see why soldiers should be a special case. Why is killing in the name of so much better than making peace in the name of that the killers get to vote but the peacemakers don't?

    If the "right" to vote has to be justified, can I start by saying that those who voted for someone later convicted of a criminal offence should never be allowed to vote again. Obviously their judgement is poor and their vote compromises our democracy.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    but each to their own.

    Indeed. I find the idea of extinguishing a person's rights against their will in their country of birth, where quite possibly most of their family are, quite probably a lot of their assets, their inheritances, their social taonga, their memories, their long term dreams, equally bizarre. There's plenty enough people who can't even be stuffed to vote when they're abroad, without needing to legislate to make it so.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Moz,

    can I start by saying that those who voted for someone later convicted of a criminal offence should never be allowed to vote again. Obviously their judgement is poor and their vote compromises our democracy.

    No. Those who vote do so with the information at their disposal, which very rarely includes allegations of criminality, let alone enough evidence to suggest prosecution is likely, let alone a conviction. And "poor judgement" is far too woolly and subjective a value judgement to be of any use.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Can’t we just be pragmatic about this too?

    That’s precisely what I was trying to do.

    No, I meant about some prisoners not being able to vote. Your challenge to me was “where do we draw the line?”

    Well, why not at a certain length of sentence, or certain types of convictions , or some combination of both?

    It’s arbitrary, yes, but it has a rationale, and that rationale is pragmatism…

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Steve Parks,

    No, I meant about some prisoners not being able to vote.

    Oh, right, sorry.

    I would say that death should be where we draw the line. Citizens should have to die before they lose the right to vote. And no, I do not support the death penalty. So, basically, .... no, let me rewrite that all.

    The line at which one loses the right to vote should be where one ceases to be a citizen. So, normally that would be death, as dead people aren't citizens. But I'd also be quite happy with those who renounce their citizenship losing the right to vote.

    So, for prisoners, I don't care how heinous their crime or how long their sentence (even preventive detention), they should have the right to vote.

    Also, what Ben Wilson said about extinguishing people's rights against their will. It was, as he said, a thousands years struggle to get where we are (and many a country, like the one I've been resident in these last 15 years, still have a long way to go to reach equivalence with NZ), and now all of a sudden people are trying to roll back these hard-won rights. Disappointing, to say the least.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    all of a sudden people are trying to roll back these hard-won rights. Disappointing, to say the least.

    Yep. If this is the left, I’d hate to see what the right looks like.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I don’t see why soldiers should be a special case. Why is killing in the name of so much better than making peace in the name of that the killers get to vote but the peacemakers don’t?

    Soldiers could be deployed to a war zone for long periods of time. They're duty could prevent them returning to NZ in the time frame. Some soldiers during WW 2 didn't see NZ for five years.

    That's not the case with a person who has a job for the UN. They have leave and options to return home that soldiers might not have.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

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