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Youth 'bike gang' aims to enrol voters

Bike gang_Gen Zero
Generation Zero’s Bike Gangs are peddling Christchurch streets to sign up registered voters. PHOTO: Michael Cropp.

There is a new gang in town, and it could be coming to a neighbourhood near you.

Generation Zero’s bike gangs having been roaming the streets of Christchurch hunting for unenrolled voters on behalf of the Electoral Commission.

Rosa Hughes-Currie, 23, Generation Zero’s regional field co-ordinator, said the Bike Gang was a fundraising initiative aimed at increasing this year’s voter enrolment.

Generation Zero, a non-profit, youth-run charity, gets $5 for every voter it signs up, and a dollar for every house visited.

Armed with voter enrolment forms, the Bike Gang knock on doors and start the conversation with non-voters every Sunday afternoon.

On the Bike Gang’s list of houses to visit, they have found empty sections, houses under construction, and short-term rentals where the voters do not want to change their electorate.

A transient population is one of the key issues facing the electoral commission in Christchurch post-earthquakes.  Many people are moving for earthquake house repairs.

Rosalee Jenkins, who is there almost every Sunday, said getting eligible voters enrolled was essential “given that we’re lucky enough to live in our democracy… it is our civic duty as citizens to vote and have a say as to what happens in our country’’.

Jenkins said Generation Zero was getting people enrolled because “we are young people and we do actually care about future, and we are going to go and do something about it’’.

Last week, the Electoral Commission said more non-voters than ever before say they do not feel like their vote is worth anything, or that their opinion matters.

“We are lucky to live in a strong democracy where we all get to play a part,” said chief electoral officer Robert Peden.

“Our democracy is important, every single vote is important, and every New Zealander’s voice deserves to be heard.”

Becky Sanders, a quantity surveyor from the Isle of Wight here for the rebuild was eligible to vote, but not enrolled.

“I am conscious that I need to [vote]. I’m still finding my way around New Zealand politics, I don’t know who I’d vote for to be honest,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the early election coverage was not informing voters.

“They don’t really talk about politics in a useful way, you know, it’s not their policies or anything. They just talk about scandals and rows – it’s just not helpful.”

The money raised by Generation Zero will go towards its nationwide RockEnrol campaign, which will bring together democracy, music and events.

_Michael Cropp