Big Budget Elections Distort Democracy

Once again the elections will see millions of dollars spent trying to persuade voters by any means possible to vote for a particular party or candidate. By any means possible being the operative term.

Now there are even more ways a party with the money could use to manipulate voters, such as chat bots and tracker ads that analyse voters online profiles and activities so they can be provided with frequently repeated messages that supposedly will appeal to them.

It goes without saying the more money a party can lay their hands on, the more they can churn out this spin. Last election over $10.5 million was spent. More than likely another $10.5 million or more will be spent in 2017.

In a New Zealand where too many people are homeless and hungry, any party with a social conscience should surely think twice about their election spending and give thought to whether donors should be encouraged to put their money to better use.

Big budget elections mean that democracy is distorted by money and by the implicit demands of the big donors. Any party wanting big donations knows their policies must be attractive first and foremost to people with big money – then spun to convince voters. Hence Labour’s President’s Club and National’s Cabinet Club and the Greens glam cover photo in North and South.

If elections were not big money and big business, we wouldn’t need to worry about who is influencing our government’s decision making, overtly or otherwise, by making large donations to political parties. Defamation actions such as faced by Andrew Little recently would not happen.

To reclaim democracy we need to get money out of politics. The only way to do that is for the state to provide all the funding needed for elections. A no frills, no spin approach would mean that it needn’t cost much more than the state already spends.

Maybe for 2020?