The power of the orange marker pen

When I was profiled in a Dom Post a few weeks ago, I was the only blogger whose political preference was not noted. The reporter didn’t ask me (probably because unlike the others, I’m not a political blogger), but if he had, I’m not sure what I would have said.

It got me thinking – what are my political preferences? What guides me when I’m in the polling booth, orange marker pen hovering above the ballot paper? It was time to revisit elections past.

1993 – Waikato
McGillicuddy Serious Party

18 and with the power to vote, this was my first election. It was also the last election under first-past-the-post – and my voting choice was a direct result of this. I lived in the corner of Hamilton that was part of the Waikato electorate. Most of Waikato was rich, rural heartland, so it was a safe National seat. There wasn’t much point in voting for any other candidates. And that’s where the McGillicuddy Serious Party came in.

The McGSP were a comedy party, but – as their name suggests – they were very serious about it. Based in Hamilton, they brought a bit of colour to the grey old town, but in standing a candidate in a safe seat, they helped expose the flaws that marred FPP voting.

And besides – the McGillicuddy’s 1993 manifesto had a recommended reading list that included the Lester Bangs essay collection “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung”, which I got out of the library and it totally changed my life. Yeah.

1996 – Hamilton East
Electorate: McGillicuddy Serious Party
List: McGillicuddy Serious Party

The electoral boundaries changed and I was now in the more even-handed Hamilton East, but was I still willing to give the McGillicuddys a second shot. McGillicuddy always did well under FPP, but how would they do under the first MMP election? Could they win a seat in Parliament?

Well, no. They still got votes in safe electorates, but only managed 5590 party votes – compare that with 34,398 for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. The McGillicuddys stood for one more general election before calling it a day. However, former McGillicuddy list candidate Metiria Turei is now taking things a bit more seriously as the co-leader of the Green Party.

1999 – Auckland Central
Electorate: National
List: ACT

The fact that I’ve voted ACT shocks some of my more right-on friends. Yes, it’s true. And it wasn’t a strategic Epsom move or anything. I voted ACT because I wanted them to get in government.

My flatmate at the time was an ACT supporter. He and a good friend of his had been supporters since they were teens going along to meetings of the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers. They weren’t just some kids who’d read “Atlas Shrugged” and decided to support ACT. It was a party that reflected their values and they could talk about it very intelligently. They’ve stuck with it, to the point that one of them was rumoured as a potential ACT list candidate this election.

And then at the same time National were kind of bombing and Labour were kicking arse. So I got a bit hipster about it and wanted to vote for someone who wasn’t the local champion. I felt really conflicted about it, and at one point completely lied and told a friend that I’d voted for the Labour candidate and Green.

2002 – Epsom
Electorate: Green
List: Green

I cannot remember why I did a double Green vote this election. I voted a couple of days before the election because I was out of town on election day. Making a vote in a corner of a suburban library is never as much fun as a proper vote on the day itself.

The day I voted was also the day of my lovely great-aunt’s funeral, and she was a bit of greenie, so perhaps it was in tribute to her. Or maybe it was a kind of backlash against my voting at the previous election. Or maybe Labour had done something that seemed a bit dirty, necessitating a more leftward nudge.

It’s funny how all this stuff seems like such a big deal at the time, and votes are cast with such conviction. But looking back, it’s a fading memory.

ivevoted2005 – Epsom
Electorate: National
List: Labour

This was a crazy election. I wanted a good local MP. Rodney Hide, the ACT leader and likely winner, didn’t seem like the sort of person who’d be able to dedicate much time to his electorate.

There was a sneaky campaign going on to encourage National voters to vote for ACT. I’d received a strange phonecall from a woman doing a phone survey with questions loaded to support ACT. I even emailed the National candidate Richard Worth to see if he really wanted my vote. He said he did, so I gave it to him, with the party vote for Labour because I couldn’t think of anyone else to vote for.

It was also the election of the Exclusive Brethren-funded pamphlets. I found six of them stuffed in my mail slot, tempting me with a “Caribbean cruise” with the tax cut I’d receive if I voted for some unnamed party.

As it happened, Rodney Hide was elected, and then spent the following year dividing his time between being the ACT leader and his showbiz/weight loss journey on “Dancing with the Stars”. Yeah, a really choice local MP.

Richard Worth, meanwhile, got in on the National list but resigned in 2009, amid allegations of being a dickbag towards a woman he was trying to impress. Yeah, an even more choice MP.

2008 – Wellington Central
Electorate: Labour
List: Maori

I met Grant Robertson at a tweetup. He was a nice guy, we had a little chat and I figured he’d be a good local MP to have. A couple of years later, I saw him walking down Lambton Quay and he said, “Hi, Robyn”, which was also nice. And that’s what got him my vote.

I’m not entirely sure why I gave the Maori party my vote. Possibly because lots of people I knew were voting Green and I wanted to be different. And the Maori Party got into government, kind of.

Looking back at all my years of voting, I feel like a really lousy elector. On the eve of this year’s general election, I feel like I should be better prepared, to have done research and attended meet-the-candidate meetings and have asked questions. I feel like I should have really solid reasons for my decisions, rather than just making a snap choice in the polling booth. Or maybe I should do what some political reporters do and stay neutral by never voting.

But you know what? At least I’ve never voted Libertarianz.

robyn-vote-20112011 – Wellington Central
Electorate: Labour
List: Green

Again I gave my electorate vote to Labour because Grant Robertson is a good local MP. I didn’t know who to give my list vote to, but I felt that Labour weren’t worthy of my vote and needed a kick up the pants. Yeah, that’ll show them. So that resulted in my list vote going to Green.

I voted in the Michael Fowler Centre, which has to be the grandest voting location. Prior to this, I have voted in various community halls. I suppose in a way the Michael Fowler Centre is a community hall, but there aren’t many community halls that fancy.

ballot-box2011 – Taranaki-King Country
Electorate: Green
List: Green

Since when was coastal Waikato in the Taranaki-King Country? Weirdest electorate name ever. I made an advance vote and gave my electorate vote to Green because it seemed like the Raglandic thing to do. And I was right – preliminary results show the Green candidate getting 355 versus the National candidate on 318. At the last election, National was first. Oh Raglan, so Green.

I also gave my party vote to Green, but this was not due to a deep affinity with Green policies. I think of the Green Party as a renovated bathroom in a Grey Lynn villa with a bottle of Eco Store hand wash by the sink.

But I wasn’t going to vote for National (they don’t need my help) or Labour (they need help). And none of the other parties were really interesting enough. So, ok, a double tick for Green.

Character building

I finally got around to filling in my ballot for the Auckland City Council elections.

With so many different things to vote for and so many different people to vote for, I went through the candidate profile booklet and started eliminating candidates based on their little blurbs.

I will not vote for candidates who said the following:

  • “I call for the withdrawal of US and ‘coalition’ troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.” OK, but what about plastic-bag recycling?
  • The anti-abortionist who says that, if elected, he will “use the office of mayor solely in this battle.” Sorry, the mayor can’t help you. He’s busy stopping a 15-year-old rape victim from aborting her unwanted foetus, etc.
  • The candidate who who “understands company reports as NZX investor.” This sounds like she sat down with a Work and Income CV consultant and learned to maximise her potential.
  • Regarding Queen Street being “a mess” – “I will encourage those concerned to wake up.” Yes, you Queen Street retailers had better wake up or there’ll be trouble.
  • The candidate who has no conflicts of interest with the “(insert name) District Health Board”. Yeah, me neither.

It looks like the mayoralty is going to be between the incumbent mayor and the previous mayor. Neither of them really excite me.

Sometimes I like to go into the Auckland Public Library’s Auckland resource room and read old city council propaganda publications. This is what I have learned – there are always going to be mayors who have really amazing plans for the city that never get to happen.

Mayor Robbie’s idea of a rapid rail system is often hailed as an example of this. I found the 1974 district plan that had this detailed in it. It was bit weird. There would have been an underground concourse running from Hobson Street (where Sky City is now) down to Queen Street, and up to Kitchener Street. Why? What’s wrong with walking down the street? And there would have been all sorts of peculiar tunnels and escalators needed to get under and around the hilly inner-city landscape.

But for every visionary idea that never makes it, there are also really horrible ideas that never get approved, like the plan to put a mall and office block on the site of the Civic theatre.

Every mayoral or council candidate that isn’t currently on the council seems to be running on the promise of change. Something is broken in this city, they say, and they’re going to fix it. But why does Auckland’s brokenness have to be fixed? Why can’t we accept the flaws of this city as being what makes it special? Does Auckland actually need “world class” paving stones on its footpaths?

Now I’ll just have to remember to post my ballot off.