Source: University of Otago
Dr Kyle Whitford
Introducing eVoting would have a positive effect on increasing voter turnout among young people, a University of Otago study suggests.
Study participants said an app that listed candidate information and allowed eVoting directly would not only increase the convenience of voting but would potentially increase youth voting numbers.
Dr Kyle Whitfield, a Doctor of Business Administration graduate of the Otago Business School, surveyed 18 to 24-year-olds and also used focus groups of young people in his research.
New Zealand’s low youth voter turn-out numbers aren’t unlike other countries, this issue does hinder having a healthy democracy and needs to be resolved, Dr Whitfield believes.
“Low voter turnout amongst 18 to 24-year-olds can undermine the political process,” he says.
“Lack of information, the feeling that local elections are ‘second order’ elections and the feeling that youths have no actual influence over the political process, ultimately produces these low turn-outs.”
“I’m dyslexic so writing a Doctoral thesis was very challenging though I was fortunate enough to have great friends who helped me with my proof reading and two fantastic supervisors who encouraged me toward this area of growth.”
For the study, Dr Whitfield began researching whether young people would be more encouraged to vote if eVoting was available, voting was compulsory, or if there was a reduction in the voting age.
He found that eVoting appeals to young people and could potentially increase their turnout, that youth felt divided about compulsory voting and that they were opposed to reducing the voting age to 16 based on the belief that this age is too young.
Other research insights revealed that they felt they were not receiving enough information to make knowledgeable decisions and that over 90 per cent of the participants felt they should have been better educated on importance of their civic rights, with 17 of the contributors mentioning that they knew absolutely nothing about politics, voting or government operations.
Having completed his bachelor’s, master’s and Master of Business Administration at Massey University, Dr Whitfield explains that why he came to the University of Otago for his Doctor of Business Administration.
“I’m dyslexic so writing a Doctoral thesis was very challenging though I was fortunate enough to have great friends who helped me with my proof reading and two fantastic supervisors who encouraged me toward this area of growth,” Dr Whitfield says.
“Other than that challenge, I absolutely loved my time at the University of Otago and loved undertaking a DBA because even though it’s hard it gave me a lot of confidence and provided some real data on the thoughts of increasing youth voter turnout.”
Originally from Whanganui, 39-year-old Dr Kyle Whitfield is as kiwi as it gets, having lived all over the country including Palmerston North, Northland, Wellington and Dunedin. His work in local government, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice and District Health boards took him across the nation before he decided to return to his studies.
Local government and youth voter turnout: Obstacles and solutions for Aotearoa New Zealand