Waiheke, Aotearoa New Zealand

October 11, 2020

Voter.

Elections are in full swing here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and for the first time, I'm able to vote in them.

Our system is a bit odd but great - elections every three years, and a mixed-member proportional system that means that you really can't waste your vote. You vote for the party you believe in, and then the parties have to work together and form a majority coalition if they want to govern.

But interestingly, it means that the country's leader is picked by the party coalition, not voters. For all the credit New Zealand gets for electing Jacinda Ardern, nobody here actually checked a box with her name.

On top of that, it's a small enough country that there's no real middle men. No state or provincial governments, with their own set of rules. Outside of your city, your national representative pretty much is your representative.

Along the way, I've had to unlearn a lot of what I thought I knew about voting, and it's made me think a lot about the cultural baggage I'm still carrying around, totally unaware of. The spaces and ideas that I think, "everyone does it like this" - when, in fact, everyone doesn't.

That internal journey, strange as it may sound, is probably what I love most about travel, even more than the sights and sounds.

Having my world view shaken, getting new perspectives on things I'd never considered nor had reason to, walking out into a world with a little more color than it had before.


This year, more than any other, I've thought a lot about the types of human governance and economic models. Their tradeoffs, strengths, and weaknesses. It seems like there's no one true answer, but a set of options - each better at certain scenarios.

Governance for crises. Governance for placid days. Governance for people with enough. Governance for people who don't have enough.

I've watched as here in New Zealand, we got super lucky with our leader as Covid swept the globe. Saw lots of places who weren't so lucky, and know how easily our lives could have been reversed.


And I've been reminded, maybe more than any time in my life, what government is – us.

Just people like you and me, trying to work for the collective good of our little group, here on a watery rock floating in space.

There are a bunch of elections left in 2020. Here. Ghana. Lithuania. Tanzania. Romania. The United States. Chile. Indonesia.

Lots of folks like you and me, getting their say in how we do things. (If you're in a place where you can vote, please vote. :) )

Me - on Monday morning, I'll walk down the hill to my local community hall, 100 years standing, sanitize my hands, and tick my boxes. And hope I get an "I voted" sticker. I love those things.

And on the way back home, I'll think what I usually do on ballot days - how lucky I am to be a little cog in such a big, beautiful thing.

Have an in-this-together week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week really made me think about the unique pressures social media is putting on the voting process. It's this brilliant little quiz that I didn't ace - can you spot which accounts are fake?

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