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Sunday 12 April 2015

"Why is it so important to vote?"

Posted in: Features
By Jacqui Stanford - 13th September 2014

We asked a range of people a simple question, ‘why is it so important to vote?’ A week from Election Day, they share their thoughts on why your voice matters.

Richard Tankersley, Human Rights Commissioner

September 20 is the day we all have the right to have a say about who will become the next Government of New Zealand. We each have the same right to vote, from the richest to the poorest, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation - it is a day of national equality.

Policies about the non-economic issues, around marriage equality for example, are different for each political party and sometimes for individual candidates. This is an opportunity to make a personal vote about social issues that matter to you.

Not every country around the world gives all its people the vote. Here any citizen or resident 18 years and over can vote by next Saturday, if they're enrolled and they want to. I think we should celebrate this by enjoying Election Day and by participating.

Urzila Carlson, comedian, lesbetarian

It's vitally important to vote, if you don't vote you can't complain about the government. That would make it awkward when you go to dinner parties and you have to keep quiet.

Allyson Hamblett
Allyson Hamblett, TransAdvocate

It is important to vote because our vote helps select the next parliament and government for the next three years.

Every vote holds equal value, and a high turnout of voters ensures that we get a government and parliament to represent all of us.

Election day is the one day we are all equal. Please vote and be counted.

Abraham Naim, drag artist, refugee

If I could have voted in my own country, maybe I wouldn't have been a refugee. If people do not vote, they may find themselves refugees or worse. It may sound dramatic, but voting is one of the most powerful rights we have, which is why people spend so much time, money and effort trying to secure your one and only, very precious vote.

Charlotte Yates, musician

Charlotte Yates
Since 1893, women have had the right to vote in New Zealand. A hard won world first that put 50 per cent of the population back in the house, ultimately able to share power and decision making. Vote. Don't let Kate down.

Since the 1980s, decade by decade, from legalisation to freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, civil unions to marriages, changes in law have seen gay and lesbian rights finally protected. The members of parliament who pushed and shoved to get those bills through were voted in by people like me and you. Vote. Don't let our heritage down.

By not voting to protect these changes, anti-gay parties like the Conservatives led by his supreme oddness, Colin Craig, can gain a toehold in Parliament and become king makers. Avoid apathy and strange people with even stranger voices. Vote. Don't let the Conservatives anywhere near the Beehive.

Trevor Easton, OUTLine

Both women and men gave up their lives so that we can have that right to vote – If you don’t vote don’t complain about any legislation that is passed.

Toni Duder, RainbowYOUTH

Toni Duder has voted already
It's important to vote because it's a privilege that we as New Zealander's have.

Don't know which party to vote for? There are heaps of useful websites like On The Fence which can help you figure out which party aligns best with your beliefs.

Feel like your vote won't make a difference? If everyone had that view, we'd get nowhere. Use your voice. There are so many who can't in other countries.

Geno Sisneros, St Matthew-in-the-City

VOTE! If we aren't actively involved in our democracy, we're active in our own complacency.

Tony Simpson, former Rainbow Wellington Chair

Tony Simpson
Understanding why glbti people should vote isn't rocket science. All of the major advances we have made in the last three decades - decriminalistion, human rights legislation, civil unions and ultimately, same sex marriage have happened in Parliament. The people who achieved these things from Fran Wilde on were able to because they were in Parliament and they got there because people voted for them.

But beyond that voting is the ultimate expression of public citizenship. The classical Athenians who invented democracy had a word for those who didn't exercise their citizenship - idiotos - the origin of our word idiot.

When women fought for and got the vote in 1893 we became the world's first full democracy. Don't dishonour our forebears. Make sure you vote on the 20th.

Duncan Matthews, RainbowYOUTH

Duncan Matthews
Voting in the general elections is the chance we, as Kiwis, get to have our say as to who runs our country. The Rainbow community has a long history of lobbying the government for change, and are equally quick to criticise when we are not consulted where change affects us.

General elections are the time when we all (well, if you're 18+!) are consulted on who runs the country, and the Rainbow community gets to lobby the government on issues that matter to us with our votes.

So get out and vote (I already have - casting an early vote is super easy this time) and let’s make sure we have the government that we want, that reflects our community, and knows the issues that matter to us!

Michael Stevens, commentator

Being able to vote is privilege and an obligation if you want to have any say in society. It is the most potent way of getting your voice heard in government, and if you come from any minority, you need to think hard about which parties have supported you and which have not. There are countries where votes are held but completely meaningless, or worse where you cannot vote at all, and where people are tortured or executed for saying they want to vote.

Voting is the only peaceful way of bringing about real social progress and change. We should all treasure the fact that we can vote freely in New Zealand and use that right.

Shaun Robinson, New Zealand AIDS Foundation

Shaun Robinson
It’s important to vote because, this election, more than ever before, there are politicians standing with very anti-gay agendas.

Human rights such as gay marriage could be overturned.

Everyone should use the power of their vote to support a fair, just and tolerant New Zealand.

Sara Fraser, chair of Wellington Gay Welfare Group, activist, feminist

I consider it important to vote for a variety of reasons. History, there is a history of a long struggle for the right to vote, I feel it is important to respect that. 121 years this year. There are still far too many countries that do not allow the freedom to vote or the right to vote without fear of violence and corruption, so in respect to that, I consider it a duty to those who do not have the right.

And I consider the personal is political! I hear too often that people feel what happens in central government has nothing to do with them, UGH! Really? So making changes to employment law doesn't affect you? Issues concerning retirement? And if we chose not to vote, we wouldn't have homosexual law reform, marriage equality and protection against discrimination!

But, I do have to say, I am disillusioned with the current state of affairs and would like nothing more than an election campaign that is actually about the issues that matter to all of us and not some sort of personality competition! #idealworld. Vote people, it really is important.

Sam Johnson, Student Volunteer Army founder

Sam Johnson
Voting is like Santa Claus. When you are little, Santa comes at Christmas, and everyone is excited. When you grow up it’s not as fun any more as you stop believing in the magic that happens from the small act of putting out the cookies and milk (or maybe the bucket of water on the roof for the reindeer). I was always taught "if you don't believe, you won't receive." The same applies to voting; if you don't vote or forget to do that small gesture of ticking a box on the right day (or any day in the next week) you are giving up hope in making change, in the magic of democracy and blissfully unaware that our democratic right is fundamental to you reading this article. Or anything else you do. Ever.

While it’s not the perfect system, and no politician is perfect, let’s keep them coming; as the alternative (just like life without Santa) isn't worth thinking about.

If you are not enrolled, there is still time to get it sorted. Find out more here

Jacqui Stanford - 13th September 2014

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