Sunday 27 August 2017

How to research your vote

With the New Zealand election less than a month away, here's some notes I put together for a new voter.  I'm putting it here mostly for my own records, but also in the hope someone else may find it useful :-)

As you presumably know, you get two votes in the election: one for a party and one for your local MP.  For your local MP you should vote for someone who you think would be useful to your local area - i.e. someone who cares about local issues you think are important or who sounds like they'll be a sympathetic person to people in trouble.  Local MPs spend about half of their time helping people in trouble: people who've asked for help in dealing with Immigration or WINZ, for example

To choose who you think will do this best, you'll need to either go to meetings in your area where the candidates get to talk about what matters to them, or read the pamphlets they put in your letterbox.

It doesn't matter what party each electorate candidate is standing for - the final balance of MPs from the different parties is determined by your party vote, not the local candidate vote* - and you can totally choose to vote for a candidate from one party with your electorate vote and then a different party with the party vote.  What's important for the local one is whether they'll represent your area well (as best as you can tell!!).

*unless you live in an electorate where a candidate who is likely to win comes from a party that is unlikely that is unlikely to attract at least 5% of the party vote nationwide.  I think the only electorates like that this time around are Epsom and those Maori seats where the Maori Party candidate is polling highly.

With your party vote you're looking for which party best represents the values/policies that will be good for NZ as a whole (and for the world as a whole, if you're thinking about positions on things like foreign policy and refugees).

To choose which party to vote for:
  • On the fence has a questionnaire about lots of issues.  They take your answers and recommend which party someone like you is likely to want to vote for.  They're good if there isn't a particular issue that is important to you and you want an overview of lots of things.
  • If there are just a few issues that are really important to you (perhaps how many refugees NZ should take in, what should be prioritised in education, how farm animals should be treated, whether euthanasia should be legalised etc.), then look at Political Party Policies.  They have compiled a truly astounding list of policy areas and will link you to what each of the major parties say on these.  It's too overwhelming to go through the full list, but if you have just a few core issues then it's a great way to find out what each of the main parties say on them.
  • There are a bunch of other questionnaire-type ones.  The main ones (along with some of their pros and cons) are listed here.  You might find one there that seems particularly helpful to you, or you might choose to do a bunch of them and see whether or not you keep on getting the same party suggested to you - different ones ask about different things, so doing a bunch is more comprehensive.
After you've done as much of that kind of research as seems appropriate, it's probably a good idea to have a quick squizz at the website of the party you're leaning towards: partly to make sure they aren't also advocating things you really don't like, but also to get an idea of their 'tone'.  Do they seem compassionate?  Innovative?  Interested in evidence?  Playing on fears?  You can only tell so much from their own propaganda, obviously, but it's still worth taking a look :-)

Ideally you'd also be taking into consideration the character of the people in senior positions in the party you're looking at and how they go about making decisions, but I'm not sure how to do that at this point.  The best thing is to keep an eye on how they present themselves in the media and what is said about them over the next few years so you can factor that in when you vote in 2020!

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