Tuesday, 22 August 2017 1:37pm
Orange Guy arrived in the University Link to talk with students. Photo: Sharron Bennett.
Students at the Dunedin campus last week were introduced to the real-life version of the Electoral Commission’s infamous “Orange Guy” as he appeared at the university encouraging them to check their voter enrolment status.
Orange Guy, played by theatre student Orion Carey-Clark and wearing a suit made by Otago Polytechnic costume designer Ian McDowall, was stationed in the University Link most days last week.
Armed with voter registration forms and accompanied by Electoral Commission fieldworker Kay Patrick, Orange Guy raised plenty of interest as students recognised the character from the Electoral Commission advertisements and approached for photos and a chat.
The initiative was a joint venture between Otago’s Communications office and the Electoral Commission, aiming to lessen the number of students in Dunedin North who aren’t enrolled to vote. In the Dunedin North electorate, just 48.52% of those aged 18-24 were enrolled to vote, and media often refers to the “missing 10,000” eligible student-age voters who aren’t enrolled.
Registrar of Electors at the Dunedin Electoral Commission Dee Vickers, speaking to the ODT this week, said “we do everything in our power to continue to track these people down, so that they don't continue to be disenfranchised.”
Over 2,000 votes were not cast by enrolled voters in the Dunedin North electorate in the last 2014 elections, and voter apathy in the student body is the focus of a number of New Zealand-wide initiatives this election year.
Orange Guy armed with voter enrolment forms at the Central Library. Photo: Sharron Bennett.
Orange Guy had a social media photoshoot at many Otago University locations the previous week, visiting Hayward College for a game of pool with students, infiltrating the weights room at UniPol, and silently popping up in the Celebrity Squares at the main library.
Head of Communications at Otago, Megan McPherson, said she hoped that having Orange Guy on campus with the students will make a significant difference to voter participation this election.
“Only half of the Dunedin North Electorate’s 18-24 year olds are enrolled and ready to vote, yet research tells us that young people who vote the first time they are eligible are more likely to become life-long voters. We believe that it really is worth the effort to encourage good habits at this young age, and hopefully we can all make a positive change not just for this election, but for the future too.”
Dee Vickers said Orange Guy was proving to be a “real hit” with students, and he and fieldworker Kay Patrick would be on campus until this Wednesday with voter enrolment forms available.