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My Vote Counts?

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Samantha Lee
Samantha Lee

I know next to nothing about politics. Which is why it is a generally a bad idea for me to write about politics unless I’m writing about how much I don’t understand politics.

Nonetheless, it has come to my attention that Voting Time is on its way once again. The outcome of votes cast by us on 26th of November 2011 will determine who gets the majority say in our lives for the next three years.

This is a cause for some concern as I am struggling with the notion that my vote counts. Unless, of course, you happen to live in Florida, in which case your vote counts a couple of times.

Anyway, in the spirit of the season, because it is no doubt beginning now, and in the wake of the most recent never-ending debacles that seem to plague Parliament (the Darren Hughes incident; the sneaky tagging of the Copyright (infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill or “regime” onto the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill; the potential leadership issues of Phil Goff) I logged on to our main contender’s sites; National and Labour, in order to find out what they stood for, what they’d accomplished, what they were going to achieve for the country, and what they were going to do for me (give a little, get a little and all that.)

Two hours later I was still at a loss, apart from this thoughtful post for the Labour grassroots site. There is a heading on the National website which does give you the run down- you can find it here , but I would think they’d be more excited about their core values, given the just-the-facts-ma’am run down. An explanation of what exactly they have done to promote them would also be very helpful- given my limited knowledge I assume words-into-action is a large part of why people vote?

What does my vote count for? I would think the candidates for election (or re-election) would mirror back what we see in ourselves, so we end up voting for the same values and standpoints we ourselves hold in high esteem. I’m not saying our politicians have to become a mid-twenties NZ European woman, but a reflection of some of the values I hold, the ideals I stand for, the issues that get me jumping out of my seat would be helpful my voting experience, thank you.

For a comparison, I logged on to the website for the Democratic Party in the United States. Who are they? What do they stand for? Click the helpful links you can find on the front page and they’ll tell you, in detail.

I also visited the White House website- you don’t have to like, agree with or even take note of American politics, but at the very least their site says from the word go that they are leading. It took me three goes to find the Beehive site, but to its credit it does have a rundown of what is occurring under each portfolio.

Don’t like American politics? What about Canadian voters? Read this wonderful blog post from a voter regarding their elections on May 2nd 2011, which I think sums up what a lot of us will be thinking come our election time, particularly:

 “We pay our taxes, pay tithing, pay the piper and always, it seems, are paying our dues. But as we do all of this, while raising our boys to be earth-friendly and globally-minded, what will YOU do? If I tick the box next to your name on May 2nd, what will YOU bring to this city, in need of change, of restoration, of hope? What will your party bring to this country, reeling still from financial setbacks and a depressing job market?  What will your party bring to all of us who've been frustrated with governmental power or felt disappointment that those we chose to lead, were not chosen?”

 What would I like to vote for? I would like a government that stands for positive change (oh-so Obama-esque.) I would like a government that respects and protects its people, particularly its women and children, particularly because although New Zealand is ranked 5th in the world on gender equality , my gender is represented by only 34 percent in parliament. Pay equity, abortion rights and domestic violence are still on the agenda in every election.

I would like a government that both recognises and works to resolve the huge need for improved education systems; for our clean and green image to be a reality and not a PR exercise; for New Zealand arts to be given a bigger budget. I would like a government that leads decisively on all issues and yet promotes a culture of acceptance.

My view will not be my neighbours view. But hope must be a funny thing, because I refuse to discount the possibility that between my view and my neighbours view will be a landscape that suits us both.

I’m not a politician. I don’t know how these things work. To be honest; I’ve probably just watched far too much West Wing and now I’m on some sort of dissatisfied-voter kick.

Then again, does a Twitter status that says “Maybe John Key should add the Labour Party schoolyard to the mailing list for the anti-bullying letters?” really reflect what you’re working on in regards to an issue that affects the majority of the public that voted for you?

When we watch the news or read the paper, how many of us hear statements that don’t actually say anything, statements that stay in the middle of the road and are too careful to create any traction?

Either that, or the statements that garner attention are the ill-thought out comments or deliberate remarks to ensure a fifteen minute media frenzy. Have you ever watched Parliament TV ? I don’t recommend it; as it often resembles not so much a group of people committed to advancing the issues of our nation and finding solutions as a group of children sniping and snapping at each other. If there was ever any dignity to be found as a member of parliament the actions, perhaps not of the many but certainly of the few make it an effort to believe my vote will count for much of anything.

Then again; when people are at their most dissatisfied, change occurs: “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

I know that “it is the responsibility of leadership to provide opportunity, and the responsibility of individuals to contribute” I know also that “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

I know that positive works are being done, and change takes time and more time to occur. But how about the people that never picked up a voting sheet in their life because of the disillusionment, the disappointment attached to that piece of paper? How about the busy parents, workers, citizens of all stripes and colours who only ever see one law change, one speech, one televised debacle or debate?

The opportunities to change hearts and minds are there. The chance to listen, to change, to adapt to meet the needs of the majority; the minority; the people who are out there every day fighting to make change out of fifty cents are there.

Me, I’m not fighting to make change. But if the potential leaders of my country can’t say what they’ve fought for, what they’ve won, and speak to the struggles and the victories that lie ahead- it means when I hold up that mirror to my government, I only see my government; I don’t see me.

Does my vote, really, count?

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