This is the third in a series of opinion pieces coming from a variety of people from our Baptist ‘tribe’ of Christians as they share some of their reflections on the up-coming General Election on 14 October 2023. We hope this content helps people to engage well with the voting process. Opinion pieces are the views of individuals and need to be considered within the context of the diversity of our union of Baptist churches in New Zealand. When commenting or contributing please follow our Guidelines for articles, opinion pieces and online comments.

This piece below comes from Jessica McKnight, member of Royal Oak Baptist Church, Auckland.

“So when are you going to be prime minister?”

“Yeah, I study politics” – the quickest way to make a good conversation grow tense. It seems that people are somewhat intimidated by this, or perhaps pride themselves on choosing a straighter way forward, amiss from “so when are you going to be prime minister?” questions or interrogations of who you voted for at the last election and why. Can’t blame them, really.

But the statement reigns true. I study politics, and I think it’s really important to vote. The question of who you vote for is less major than if you voted at all.

Young people need to vote

It’s no surprise that young people have opinions. As a Gen-Z, I can accept that we have had a remarkably different upbringing – technology and social media have been powerful tools for widely sharing social, environmental, and cultural issues. Funnily enough, all of these issues are political – whether we want them to be or not. With this has come a deep recognition that there can and should be a different way forward politically. Consequently, we have bunked school to protest for the climate, posted a black square across platforms, joined movements, joined forces and joined hands when things are not how we think they should be. For such a united generation, it’s painful when the oldies (read: Boomers) still come out on top of voting engagement. I won’t bore you with the statistics, but we know it’s true. Young people never vote as much as older people. Add this to the list of what needs to change.

The hard part

Here’s the hard part: encouraging people to vote.

Statistics haven’t seemed to work in the past. Guilt-tripping is far from ideal. Judgement needs to be left behind. These tactics are used far too frequently on a generation that has proven to not succumb to the peer pressure to do things they simply don’t want to or can’t be bothered to do.

Younger generations have the power to influence

Perhaps, then, what we need is knowledge that one vote can make a difference  – that the voice of the younger generations (which also happens to be the generations with the most at stake) is the voice that has the power to influence our future, if only we use it. Protesting and resharing images online is great to an extent, but politicians are also known to be strong-headed, meaning who we allow to hold office with our votes determines how effective our efforts are.

Significance of your vote

If it’s the boring policy talk, the confusing political jargon, or perhaps the fear that your vote is insignificant, keep reading. Below are some prompts to consider before the election. The aim is for these to stir action, conversation, and a trip to the polling booth (which, by the way, is super fun).

Get thinking about the following

>> What principles do you live your life by? Do you have a set list?

>> Why do you care about the things you care about?

>> How will environmental action make a difference to your future?

>> Do you wish you paid more or less tax?

>> What about voting makes you nervous?

>> What do you think good leadership looks like?

>> If you don’t like who is in charge, would you ever take their spot? Why or why not?

>> Do you think it is realistic that you will own a house one day? If yes, when? If not, how much does this bother you?

>> Do you prefer to do what is good for you or what is good for the majority?

>> What experience do you have with conflict resolution?

>> What do you think about leaders who are racist?

>> What would your ideal Aotearoa look like? How can we get there?

>> Do you think our current healthcare system is good enough? What about for the people who make more or less money than you?

You do have power

If these don’t hit the spot, know this: you do have power. You have the right to vote and the right to care about such important issues. Protesting down Queen Street and going to the voting booth on election day have to go hand in hand. Action requires action on both ends. The conviction to care about political issues should naturally be followed up by political involvement. And this is coming from a fellow Gen-Z: if you have enough effort to care, you can tick a box. And if you don’t care, think again. If we want things to change, we have to do something about it.

Pre-election reflection series

Other pieces in this series:

Vote for your neighbour by Andrew Clark-Howard

Seeking the welfare of the city when the empire’s listening: Exploring politics with Joseph and Daniel podcast episode with Michael Rhodes


Photo credit: Electoral Commission Media Kit General Election 2023, Creative Commons.

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