Yes, I’m lazy, and yes, I was motivated by the spectre of Trump, but it’s still surprising that I found it easier to vote for the US presidency this month than in the Auckland council elections, writes Madeleine Chapman.
I’ve done a lot of voting in my 22 years of life. When you grow up with nine siblings, a lot of decisions are put to a vote. Which movie should we rent? What takeaways are we getting for our treat? Who’s going to tell Mum we broke a window? Without even realising it, everything was decided by a vote. And if you didn’t vote because you couldn’t decide in time, then you weren’t allowed to cry when Mum and Dad came back with fish and chips and you wanted Chinese takeaways.
So I know how voting works and I know that some believe if you don’t vote you lose your right to complain. I’ll probably still complain about everything, however, despite the fact I didn’t vote in the local body elections earlier this month. Why did I not vote? It was too hard.
Last week, I sent in my official absentee vote for the US Presidential Election. Because as it turns out, it’s easier for me to vote for Hillary Clinton than it is to vote for Chloe Swarbrick.
In January I got a friendly email reminder from the US embassy that, as a non-resident American citizen, I could register to vote. I ignored it. Then I got another one in June, when Trump was in his prime and looking like he could win the election. The email included an invitation to register online, so I clicked the link and was a registered voter in four minutes. At the end of the four minutes I printed out a form requesting an absentee ballot and put it in an envelope.
That envelope then sat on my desk at work for two weeks while I continued to forget that the Consulate General’s office across the road from my work closes at 3pm, a fractionally more unreasonable closing time than the NZ Post shop. I finally walked across the road during work hours, got my envelope scanned for explosives, and dropped it in the mailbox in the lobby.
(I could’ve sent it from the post office next door but the embassy was sending them for free.)
Now, at this point, it sounds like the same amount of effort it takes to vote in a local body election. Fill out a form, put it in an envelope, then drop it in a mailbox. Except I never got my Auckland voting papers because, although I would happily live at home forever, I’ve moved a few times since I turned 18 and the electoral office wasn’t the first place I told. So I had no idea where my voting papers had gone.
Turns out they went to my childhood home in Karori, got redirected to a PO box in downtown Wellington, then finally ended up at my parents’ place in Porirua, where they stayed until they were probably used by my mum to start a fire last week.
Two days before voting closed, I remembered that I’d never received a ballot and called the number for help. No one answered and after about six rings I hung up because I had urgent matters to deal with like going across the road for some chips. And that was that. I was too lazy to try out option C, whatever that might have been. I didn’t vote in the local body elections because I didn’t get my ballot, but also because I’m quite lazy.
But get this. I was equally lazy when voting in the presidential election; the only difference is the other end were actually helpful. I got an email last week informing me that I had registered to vote in, and sent my papers to, the wrong county. Not to worry, they said, we’ll just pass your information on to the correct county and you’ll hear from them soon. The next day I got an email from the correct county saying that I had also forgotten to fill in part of the form. I emailed back my NZ address (the omitted info) and they responded immediately with a link to my absentee ballot.
Last week I filled out the ballot, put it in an envelope, and dropped it across the road, where it was once again scanned for explosives. But if I couldn’t be bothered or was too slow, I could vote electronically by simply responding to their email and requesting it.
Of course, the thought of going against Trump is a pretty incredible motivator to get me to vote, but it was still strangely easy compared with voting in New Zealand’s local body elections. I’m not the only one who had trouble – lots of people had little to no idea where their voting papers were sent, while instead receiving ballots for tenants that had previously lived in their house. And by lots of people, I mean everyone I know who rents. And by everyone I know who rents, I mean everyone I know.