As of the beginning of this month, more than 60 per cent of the 344,205 eligible population not yet on the roll were under 30 years of age. The worst offenders were 18- to 24-year-olds, with 147,035, or nearly a third of this age group not yet signed up.

Unfortunately, if history is any guide, there’s unlikely to be a sudden rush to correct this. In the 2011 general election, only 40 per cent of the 18-29 group voted. In the 2013 local elections, only 34 per cent bothered.

Compare that with the baby boomer generation, the 60-plus voters, where turn-out in 2013 was 85-89 per cent.

In Auckland, at least, you might have thought the growing impossibility to buy a home – and the growing difficultly of even renting one, would have politicised this cohort into action. Instead, they seem too busy chasing Pokemon on their smartphones to pursue real issues.

Perhaps they need the fear of compulsory conscription into the armed forces to concentrate their minds. It certainly worked for me. When I hit 18, the army was still conducting a birthday ballot, and the unlucky few were forced off to Papakura Camp to wave ancient .303 rifles around for a few weeks of the year, and then be on call for two or three years. I recall veteran politician-turned-diplomat Jim McLay later claiming it was the making of him.

It was a time when war-mongering National Party politicians were hinting at sending conscripts to Vietnam. Especially young trouble-making students like myself. This added a frisson of reality to the protest marches I joined when South Vietnamese leader Air Vice-Marshal Ky and American Vice-President Spiro Agnew came seeking cannon fodder for their war.

The present young seem to have missed out not just on the direct action gene, but the voting gene as well.

The experts argue that voting is a social act, a learned behaviour, reinforced by repeat behaviour. I’d go along with that. During my OE in London in the early 1970s, I fronted up to the voting booths twice in one year. The only time I haven’t voted was in the first flag referendum, and I count that as a participatory rejection of all five options, by someone who supported change but not at any cost.

Meanwhile, here in present day Auckland, the self-appointed spokesmen for young Aucklanders keep denouncing the baby-boomer generation for holding back the redevelopment of their posh suburbs to make way for apartment blocks for the new generation. Instead of slinging insults, they should do the electoral sums and start organising. If the baby-boomers are running the show, it’s only because they get out and participate in the running of the city.

Electoral Commission figures show the 412,600 18- to 34-year-old potential voters greatly outnumber the 263,700 Aucklanders aged 60 and over. The difference is, more than 96 per cent of we oldies are already enrolled, and on past performance, the vast majority of us vote.

With the youngsters it’s different story. More than a third of the under-25s are not enrolled and unlikely to vote. All told, 112,468 of Auckland’s 18- to 34-year-olds have not enrolled compared to just 8533 of the 60 plus generation.

The recently released Citizen Insights Monitor, measuring Aucklanders’ views on the council’s performance, reflects widespread disenchantment with the running of the city, with only 15 per cent of respondents satisfied with the council’s performance and only 17 per cent saying they trust the council to make the right decision.

But we’re not going to cure such malaise, nor are the younger generation going to get their waterfront apartments, by walking away from the problem as happened in 2013, when voter turnout was 15 per cent down.

Source:  The New Zealand Herald


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