Golriz’s Electoral (Strengthening Democracy) Amendment Bill

Golriz had her Electoral (Strengthening Democracy) Amendment Bill pulled from the biscuit tin, and there’s a lot that is worthy of debate.

The seven areas of reform in the Bill are:

  • Enabling voters of Māori descent to change roll type at any time
  • Extending the voting age to 16 years
  • Removing the requirement for NZ citizens living overseas to have visited New Zealand within the last 3 years to maintain their voting rights
  • Giving all people in prison the right to vote
  • Implementing the Electoral Commission’s 2012 MMP Review recommendations
  • Strengthening transparency and safeguards on donations to parties and candidates
  • Extending the reserved provisions to include all provisions that reduce eligibility to register as an elector or to vote at an election.

Here are my thoughts.

Māori Roll: The manner in which Māori are only allowed to swap between the Māori Roll and General Roll once every 5 years is very regressive in terms of Treaty obligations and democratic representation of Māori. There were tens of thousands of Māori who enquired about changing between rolls at the last election, and the ability to vote where you want is important for universal suffrage.

The justification for the 5 year approach is that the demographic details are used to set electoral boundaries, so there will need to be a technical work around to make this work.

As the country begins to appreciate the yawning chasm of inequality lockdowns have exacerbated between Māori & Pakeha (while acknowledging we aren’t safe until we are all vaccinated), this revelation has to translate into strengthening Māori political representation, not amputating it as ACT want!

 

Lower voting age to 16: Taxation without representation is a classic and it has weight. Lots of 16 and 17 year olds have jobs and are paying tax but without any political representation. That is an incredibly powerful argument for Democrats and those arguing against lowering the voting age don’t have much intellectual or philosophical counter weight to this prescient point.

One counter is that teenagers frontal lobes haven’t developed enough yet and as such 16 & 17 year olds don’t have the maturity to vote.

While it is certainly true that teens don’t develop frontal lobes until their mid 20s, we are talking about sudden panic moments in young peoples lives like fighting or boy racing or racing off in police pursuits, that criticism can’t be extended to teenagers ability to reason or understand the world around them!

What is the suggestion here? Teenagers will panic at the voting booth and murder everyone in an epic melt down over not being able to take a selfie while voting?

The third argument is that this is self serving for the Left. I think that is garbage. Allowing people over 80 to vote leads to very biased results!

Young people are dealing with climate change, allowing them a political voice and by bringing them into politics earlier builds the franchise of democracy no matter who it benefits politically (and I would argue it benefits older people right now)!

Broadening the franchise of Democracy is the goal and allowing our teenagers to have a say would force politicians to listen.

If politicians aren’t going to listen, they won’t get their vote!

What more democratic is that?

I say yes to lowering the voting age to 16 and welcome a new generation of citizens into the great debate that is democracy!

 

Removing the requirement for NZ citizens living overseas to have visited New Zealand within the last 3 years to maintain their voting rights: The justification for restricting voting rights to citizens overseas who have visited the country within the last 3 years is so we only include voters who actually have a physical connection here. There is a million of us who live overseas, do we really want to include a vast electorate who never return home?

What about making voting only a right for citizens rather than permanent residents? The question is as urgent to ask if we are opening up voting rights to external citizens who like absent landlords have never visited their homeland but continue to influence the system under which we live, not them.

There are real philosophical reasons you would restrict voting rights and these need to be explored.

 

Giving all people in prison the right to vote: This makes sense. A prisoners rights are curtailed in a state run environment where they have no power. Allowing prisoners to vote forces society to have a legitimate democratic voice for those being punished by us. Critics claim that you lose your rights as a prisoner including the privilege of voting, but that privilege is intrinsic to all citizens regardless of their imprisonment. A prisoner loses their liberty, they don’t lose fundamental human rights. Allowing prisoners to politically voice their views forces political parties to listen to their concerns, and people in prison have concerns.

 

Dump Coat-tailing: The MMP coat-tailing rule was a quirky feature that recognized regional political movements and allows for Minor Parties to build infrastructure. The inability for many minor parties to exist suggests it hasn’t been successful to date but doesn’t mean it should be removed! It plays an important incubator in the creation of political movements in NZ and losing it would I think shut down one of the structural engines built within MMP. As someone who has started a fair share of minor parties, it is a legitimate tool that helps build new political parties.

 

Lower threshold to 4%: We don’t want the madness of the Israeli MMP system, but 5% as the threshold has cut most political movements off before they start. Lowering it to 4% will help NZ First.

 

Strengthening transparency and safeguards on donations to parties and candidates: Sure, but this isn’t the real reform we need, we need public funding of our political system!

With so much swirling around donations to political parties, isn’t it time to consider publicly funding our political parties? If we want to remove the influence of big money from politics, remove the need for politicians to have to flirt for those donations in the first place.

Law God Andrew Geddis put forward the argument for publicly funded election campaigns for Political Parties in his 2007 public policy essay

The third set of responses can be termed public assistance measures. They complement the egalitarian objective of the previous two forms of regulation by replacing the role that private (and thus unequally distributed) sources of wealth can play in the electoral process with a ‘clean’ source of funding – the general taxpayer. Further, such measures may be designed to provide funding to parties or candidates which otherwise would struggle to raise private funds, thereby enabling a greater range of voices to participate at the election. A variety of different forms of public assistance measures are available: direct payments to electoral participants on a ‘dollar-per-votes’ basis; post-election refunds of the expenses incurred in campaigning; matching donations for small, individual donations; tax credits to compensate small donors for their gift; the provision of broadcasting time or other campaign benefits to qualifying contestants.

…publicly funding political party election campaigns would remove all money influence from the political decision making process.

Based on the current spending caps we are talking about a $20million cost per election to remove big money from NZ politics.

It’s time to seriously discuss publicly funding election campaigns.

 

Extending the reserved provisions to include all provisions that reduce eligibility to register as an elector or to vote at an election: There are a lot of mainly women who need to be on private rolls so that they can’t be chased by abusive ex partners, this process to apply to be on the private roll should be as bureaucratically easy as possible.

 

There is real meat on the bone philosophically and technically on ways to empower and strengthen our democracy that we should all take seriously.

We have seen the danger of misinformation and disinformation to our democracy when it comes to the Facebook algorithms of hate. Strengthening and extending the universal franchise of democracy is an urgent endeavour we must engage with.

Can we have that debate rationally?

Fuck no!

The polarisation of politics is so extreme now, this will immediately be seen as the Greens attempting to screw the scrum in their favour. When you have a Party openly promising to amputate 5 Ministries, the idea of progressive political processes will clash like Donald Trump at a Vegan Feminist Conference.

 

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