Regional | Local

Mandatory and online voting necessary - Toi ki Uta candidate

Jackie Te Amo-Te Kurapa, candidate for the Toi ki Uta Māori ward, says wider solutions are needed to get people more engaged with local democracy. Photo / Supplied

Toi ki Uta Māori ward candidate Jackie Te Amo-Te Kurapa has reacted to low voter numbers at this year’s election, saying online voting needs to be made available and voting should become mandatory.

Voter numbers in the southern parts of the Whakatāne district are looking less dire than last week, when one sub-region of the Murupara Community Board area, Te Urewera, had no people who had voted.

Twenty-five of the 307 registered voters in that area, which includes Ruatāhuna and Minginui, have now voted according to the Whakatāne District Council website.

Voter numbers are still lower than in previous elections, however, at 18.8% for the entire district as of yesterday. Māori wards are still showing the lowest numbers of returns, with Kapu te Rangi Māori ward lowest with 9.6% of votes returned. At the same stage in the last election, 28.4% of votes had been returned.

Te Amo-Te Kurapa said it was important for people to vote because the services provided by the council impacted everyone’s lives.

She has asked people in her ward why they have not voted, and many of them have told her they did not receive their voting documents in the mail.

“Then I’m watching TV and nor had the minister (Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta) received her voting papers. So, there are some issues in our country around people getting their mail. I think there’s a lot of them in Ruatāhuna that haven’t received their voting papers.

“I’ve informed them that it’s okay because they can ring the electoral roll, given them the number, and also informed them that they can do a special vote.”

However, Te Amo-Te Kurapa said wider solutions were necessary to get people more engaged with local democracy.

“I know people won’t like this, but why don’t they just make it mandatory for people to vote? It would save lots of hassle. People like me, go around campaigning but we’re also educating. The system has failed for how many years now, and nobody’s looking for a wider solution.

She is also an advocate for online voting.

“It’s the 21st century. People, for whatever reasons, are either not getting mail or their mail’s wet, even when they’re getting it. People get online for their WINZ, for their banking, for everything. Kuia won’t have to go down to the mobile unit and do this.

“Ruatāhuna has WiFi-connected internet because we got that through Te Puni Kokiri; we’ve got all of that up there.

Toi ki Uta Māori ward candidate Ngapera Rangiaho said it was very concerning that voting numbers were so low.

“It’s not through lack of campaigning or lack of communication,” she said.

“It may be that they just need a prompt, to be honest. We’re going to be out and about over the weekend so we’re going to have to do something about that.

“One of the messages we’ve been driving through is, 'guys, don’t look at it and fill it out and leave it on you’re fridge'. In honesty, I think they’ve just got so busy that time has escaped them. We’ve got one week to go, so let’s just get that thing off your fridge and send it in.”

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