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Vote illustration by Hannah BartleThe oth­er day I had a cof­fee with a hip­ster called Richard. He has a bean­ie, a beard and a broken arm from a bicycle acci­dent. Of course he rides a bicycle. Prob­ably one with a chirp-chirp bell like all the oth­er quaint hip­sters. Any­way, the oth­er day Richard changed my mind about idi­ots who don’t vote.

I def­in­itely would’ve called them idi­ots. And uneducated. And demo­crat­ic­ally spoilt brats. Ooooh. Mean. I’d have ridiculed the biggest non-voter of them all, Rus­sell Brand. I’d have called him a comedi­an dressed like a pir­ate, using a big vocab to dress up his ter­rible ideas. Rus­sell doesn’t vote because politi­cians are liars and his vote won’t change any­thing. Those are my words. His words went like this: “I’m not vot­ing out of abso­lute indif­fer­ence and wear­i­ness and exhaus­tion from the lies, treach­ery, deceit of the polit­ic­al class.”

A few weeks ago I’d have told you that not vot­ing is the civic equi­val­ent of wear­ing your slip­pers and dress­ing gown to the dairy. It shows that life’s so com­fy, you’ve stopped giv­ing a toss. I’d have day­dreamed the con­ver­sa­tion between Nel­son Man­dela and Rus­sell Brand:

            Rus­sell: I don’t vote because it doesn’t make a difference.

            Nel­son: I spent 27 years in jail for the right to vote. Youre a dick.

Before the cof­fee chat, I would’ve told you your vote could be the drop that over­flows the cup. I might’ve poin­ted out that if just one per­son at each vot­ing sta­tion in 1960 changed their bal­lot, JFK would nev­er have become US pres­id­ent. ‘Happy Birth­day’ would still be a kids’ song.

But then I spent an hour listen­ing to a hip­ster explain the reas­ons he doesn’t vote. He got enthu­si­ast­ic. He waved his broken arm about and scratched his head as he talked. He isn’t too lazy, too apathet­ic, too dis­in­ter­ested. He’s just unim­pressed. He thinks it could be bet­ter. He wants more involve­ment than just turn­ing up every three years to pick a party. He has lofty ideas. We could use our phones to text vote. We could have cit­izen jur­ies vot­ing yes or no to Par­lia­ment­ary ideas. We could have coun­cils of 50 people, which each send a del­eg­ate to the next coun­cils of 50 people, which each do the same to the next coun­cils of 50 people, till everyone’s had a say in a giant pyr­am­id scheme of democracy.

I’m starry-eyed too, until I leave and walk straight back into real­ity. That’s not how the world works. But maybe, just maybe it one day will. We shouldn’t call Richard an idi­ot. There are as many of him as there are cit­izens who picked our gov­ern­ment. For every per­son who voted for Nation­al at the last elec­tion, nearly as many didn’t vote at all. So this elec­tion, if every one of those non-voters voted for Richard, maybe he could beat John Key. Maybe we could have a PM with a bean­ie, a beard and a bicycle. And big ideas.

Heather du Plessis-Allan

Heather is a Jafa who's called Wellington home for seven years and counitng. The wind still drives her crazy, but the bucket fountain still makes her smile. She's running around Oriental Bay and learning to surf Lyall Bay. Her day job is reporting for TVNZ's Seven Sharp.

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