Rob Salmond at Polity has had a look at the effectiveness of National’s deliberate strategy to discriminate against Maori and Pasifika in the asset sales referendum.
National chose a postal ballot for the referendum knowing it would disproportionately disenfranchise Maori and Pasifika communities. I hope they’re proud of themselves.
Here is a chart of turnout rates in the asset sales referendum, graphed against the National vote in the 2011 election:
What stands out? Well, first of all it contradicts the complete nonsense various people have been spreading about the turnout being just a bunch of lefties1 and also Matthew Hooten’s misinformation about turnout being pretty even around the country.
But more importantly we also see a deepening of the disturbing trend where heavily Maori and Pacific electorates have less of a voice than other areas. These communities have always had lower turnout than the rest of the country, but that trend was even more pronounced in the referendum. In the 2011 election the ten highlighted electorates turned out at about five-sixths the rate of the entire country. In this referendum, their turnout rate fell to only two thirds the nationwide average.
The dirty secret here is that National knew in advance this would happen, and that is exactly why they chose the postal ballot. Study after study has shown that postal ballots cause a wider turnout gap between the haves and the have nots.2 This is because people in low income communities (and especially low income ethnic minority communities) are:
National chose the postal ballot knowing all this full well. They wanted to make it comparatively harder – even harder than normal – for Labour’s strongest supporters in disadvantaged areas to cast their ballot’s than for National’s strong support bases in white-as-snow retirement communities.
It worked, of course. Yuck.
1.Even when you exclude the ten highlighted electorates, there, is still no relationship between National support and turnout rates. Even bearing in mind the limits of ecological inference, this pattern is highly inconsistent with the right-leaning spin.
2.An excellent example, from New Zealand-connected researchers Jeff Karp and Susan Banducci, shows that postal voting in Oregon causes increased turnout, but only really among high-turnout communities, thus expanding the turnout gap between the haves and the have nots.