An Open Letter calling for an Electoral Forum
Dawn Baxendale, CEO Christchurch City Council
Bill Bayfield, CEO Environment Canterbury
David Meates, CEO Canterbury District Health Board
We can do better: Inspiring, engaging and encouraging local voting
I am writing with encouragement of others to ask you to call a community forum to address the issue of low local voter turnout in this year’s local body elections in Christchurch and Canterbury.
Participants learned that Council Executives are now required to work to achieve increased voter participation. At 42% turnout the local elections in Christchurch did not inspire voters.
Ms Drage cited numerous factors impacting voter engagement. These include:
- Candidates with a high local profile or controversial issues (these are not easily, nor necessarily appropriately, controlled by local bodies)
- The number of constituents per Councillor
- Engaging constituents for 3 years instead of 3 weeks
- Having multiple candidates in a ward encourages diversity
- Citizen Assemblies with power to determine funding
- The amount of and better access to information on candidates
- Advertising information such as candidate forums – Wellington Council encouraged all entities holding forums to list the details on the Council website. Hamilton Council funded a professionally run mayoral forum which was also live streamed.
Some of those involved in “get out the vote” phone calls say it was clear that many potential voters were disengaged. They had little information to base a vote on and did not always trust the information provided. Trust in government was low. Issues of concern were often not addressed.
Voters need to have reliable comprehensive fact checked candidate background and issue information to have the confidence to vote. Many vote without this and many more simply opt out. Neither strengthens Democracy.
Some who wished to be engaged found the whole process of local government and voting so alien that they simply wanted direction in how to vote.
It would seem that the media, despite increased coverage of some races, provided too little information on too few candidates and issues. Easy click bait headlines dominated and on line the same pieces covering the local body elections remained up for weeks with few new offerings.
More candidate information would be helpful:
- Candidate CV’s, not limited to 150 words
- Who nominated them and their contact details
- Whether they have stood before, how often, offices achieved and whether they are incumbents
- Links to Facebook or websites where applicable
- A set list of issues with each candidate’s response, non-responses noted
- Information about what skills are needed for a position
- More information about candidate’s current stands, affiliations, business, employment, with lack of information noted
- Links to information gathered by community groups through their questionnaires
With a likely review of representation arrangements in this cycle, we suggest that there is a post-election forum with speakers and community feedback as to how this can be done better.
As chief executives you now have a role to play in improving the quality of information,
I look forward to your response,
Rosemary Neave and friends
45 Moncks Spur Redcliffs
firstname.lastname@example.org 027 289 0383