Younger people in the Mt Albert electorate were well off the top of the class in enrolling for the 2017 election – but most of those who did so took the next step and voted.
While only two-thirds of potential electorate voters aged from 18 to 29 actually enrolled, around 80 per cent of them did cast a vote.
Electoral Commission data shows just 67.61% of eligible voters aged between 18 and 24 enrolled in the seat – against the national average of 72.29 per cent. In neighbouring Mt Roskill, the figure was 71.66 per cent.
For those aged 25 to 29, the statistics were worse, with only 65.52 per cent of the grouping filling out an enrolment form – compared to 80.06 per cent nationally and 68.74 per cent in Mt Roskill.
But the actual voting data pushed Mt Albert to near the top of the ladder for New Zealand’s 71 electorates – eight percentage points on average higher for the youth sector when compared to Mt Roskill, and 11 to 13 points higher than the national average.
It’s unclear why enrolments were so low in Mt Albert, a seat which stretches through Pt Chevalier and Grey Lynn to Westmere. But Unitec and its 20,000 students may give a strong clue.
To be eligible to vote, people must be entitled to live in New Zealand permanently, and need to have been here for 12 months continuously or more. Someone on a standard student visa would not qualify.
However, many students are New Zealand residents who come from areas outside the electorate and, while they may live here for the term of their tertiary education, they may be enrolled in other seats. They are counted as living in the electorate, potentially distorting the overall enrolment figure.
Still, while students may have an influence on the number of enrolments here in the 18-25 year age bracket, it’s difficult to imagine the same sort of impact from the 25-29 year segment, which scored the worst in Mt Albert. That demographic is a real challenge for the Electoral Commission and the political parties.
Researchers also say that as many as 60 per cent of new migrants do not enrol or vote in elections until they become more familiar with the country and its culture – and, even then, a lot decide not to participate. It is not clear how many migrants living in Mt Albert, Pt Chevalier, Grey Lynn and Westmere fall into that category, but the percentage will be much higher than in provincial electorates or other cities.
Would a law forcing people to the ballot box help to reverse declining voting patterns? Probably, but the law (the Electoral Act, with a fine of up to $100) at present requires everyone eligible to enrol – and it is ignored and not enforced.
The age group statistics for Mt Albert at the 2017 election, compared to the national average for the same demographic, are:
People aged 18-24, 82% (nationally, 69%); ages 25-29, 78% (68%); ages 30-34, 78% (71%); ages 35-39, 78% (74%); 40-44, 81% (78%); ages 45-49, 85% (80%); ages 50-54, 85% (82%); ages 55-59, 85% (84%); ages 60-64, 85% (86%); ages 65-69, 87% (88%); ages 70-plus, 81% (86%).