Voting still open this Saturday

Debbie Lascelles said council offices in Cambridge and Te Awamutu would be open tomorrow for last minute voters. Photo – Michel Jeans.

It’s now down to hours.

Polls for the 2019 local body elections close across the country tomorrow – and voters who still want to have their say will have to use their feet to meet the noon deadline.

Waipa District Council is opening its doors in Cambridge and Te Awamutu tomorrow the opportunity to both enrol and vote.

Council’s General Manager for Strategy and Community Services, Debbie Lascelles hopes those who haven’t already voted will turn out and have their say.

“I think a lot of people don’t realise how important local government is, and how much it affects their daily life,” she said.

“We (council) spend a lot of money, and it’s those councillors who set our budget for the next 10 years – that determines what facilities and big projects get funded. … all the stuff that make a community a great placed to live are predominantly driven by a local government.”

Voter turnout in Waipa is down 15 percent compared to this time in the 2016 election. Lascelles said the fact that the mayor Jim Mylchreest stands unopposed could play a big part in voter interest this year.

“I think some people don’t actually understand the breadth and depth of what council does, and it could also be that people are a little bit cynical about politics and politicians in general,” she said.

Nationally only 43 per cent of eligible voters cast a vote in the 2016 election.  Returns in local government elections, which still rely on postal voting, have been declining nationwide since the 1980s.

But people should care, and they should vote, Lascelles said, because it touches on the things that make their lives good.

“It’s not just rubbish collections, it’s your community facilities, parks, pools, library, water, even how we set the speed for local roads. It’s all the stuff that make a community a great place to live.”

“Voter turnout is low pretty much almost everywhere, and I think the challenge for local government is to build a better understanding in its community of what we do.”

She applauded community groups like Grey Power for organising candidate meetings – given that council staff are limited in their involvement with the local elections. But Waipa District Council, in keeping with the rules of local government elections, had been involved with a range of community engagement activities, from promotional posters and Facebook campaigns to providing extensive information on council candidates and how residents can vote.

Online voting could make a difference in future, she said, if applied properly. “If it gets more people to vote I’d be in favour of it, but you’d have to have a combination of (voting) options.”

She said the lack of public turnout at the candidates meetings didn’t exactly bode well for the total voter turnout, but, “we can always hope”.

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