As of September 30, 21.7 per cent of eligible voters had returned their papers containing their choice for mayor, councillors and community board members for the Thames-Coromandel region local elections.
In the Hauraki-Coromandel region, the Tairua-Pauanui ward is leading the pack in returns ahead of the election on October 8, but returns are still down significantly on the 2019 and 2016 elections. The ward has returned 31.3 per cent of votes across 850 total votes for the period, a few days out from the election.
Eligible Whangamata voters have returned 22.8 per cent across 950 total votes cast, as of September 30, while Mercury Bay sits on 21.6 per cent across 1725 returned votes. Coromandel-Colville Ward simmers just below with a 20.4 per cent return rate.
Thames, a town of about 8000 people, is tailing the field, with just 18.7 per cent of returns recorded across 1575 total votes.
When compared with previous elections, the total average returns received for the area covered by the Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) is down from 26.9 per cent, which, in turn, was down from 30.9 for the 2019 and 2016 comparison periods, respectively.
Yet to be established is whether voter apathy is playing a part in this election's lower turnout, but based on past data, these numbers should rise in the days preceding Saturday's election.
Some ward residents have echoed the concerns of many voters and candidates in Auckland, who were vocal about not being sent their voting papers. Some have speculated the Thames-Coromandel's high population of baches and holiday homes are often listed as primary residences by their out-of-area owners, and the papers may not have been physically collected. Many holiday-home owners are eligible to vote as ratepayer electors.
Stevie Douglass, a 23-year-old Waihi apprentice said he had not received any voting papers at his flat, and opined that many people in his age bracket "probably wouldn't be bothered to send in" voting papers, before suggesting "voting should be online these days. People my age literally never open mail - it's usually only bad news. I think you would get a much better turnout of voters if you could just vote on your phone".
While mooted as a solution to declining paper vote returns, online voting does come with the caveat that election results may be compromised by hackers. Traditional paper-based returns lower the chance of outside interference, but can be viewed as increasingly analogue in today's digital world.
When asked about any issues with voting papers not arriving, TCDC communications team leader Michael Dobie said, "We haven't received any feedback from people about not receiving their ballot papers. People usually go straight to Election Services to request a special vote if they are registered to vote but didn't receive their voting packs. Election Services doesn't report on the reasons given for requesting a Special Vote until after the election, but usually, it's because people have moved and haven't updated their contact details."
- NZ Herald senior writer suggests answer for low voter turnout in local body elections
- Sunday Panel: Local body elections
- Should voting in local body elections be mandatory?
- Time's running out to vote in local body elections
Voting closes at noon on Saturday, October 8. Preliminary results are returned on Sunday, October 9, and final results are reported between 14-19 October.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you