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Students have their say in election race

7 September 2005

Students have their say in election race

They are not legally allowed to vote, but that will not stop thousands of Auckland children and teenagers from casting a ballot in election week.

A record 6,000 students from 30 schools are taking part in Auckland City’s ‘Kids Voting’ programme, which aims to teach students about the democratic process.

The programme is part of the Civic Awareness in Schools initiative and features a mock MMP election in which students vote for real political parties and the actual candidates standing in their school’s electorate.

Auckland City’s electoral officer, Dale Ofsoske, says the ‘Kids Voting’ project is a fun way to involve younger people in the electoral process.

“This programme gives young people a chance to explore political ideas and processes and to really feel like they have a say.

“It’s also a great chance for students to talk to their parents about the democratic system and to engage in some interesting dinner table conversation,” Mr Ofsoske says.

From today, as part of the ‘Kids Voting’ programme, all schools will be provided with:

- voting documents, which have been approved by the Chief Electoral Officer
- ballot bags
- instructions on how to create their school electoral roll
- instructions on how to count their votes
- a curriculum guideline.

Mr Ofsoske says teachers encourage students to research party policies and candidates in their electorates so that they can make an informed vote.

“Many young people do not understand the electoral process when they turn 18, so they are not interested in voting.

“I hope that by participating in mock elections at school they’ll be more interested in voting when they reach the legal voting age,” Mr Ofsoske says.

He says students must complete their voting by 14 September (three days prior to Election Day) and must not open their sealed ballot bag until Monday 19 September.

Mr Ofsoske says schools can then compare their results with the real results.

At the last general election, the nine schools that took part in the ‘Kids Voting’ programme voted: National 24 per cent, Labour 23 per cent, Greens 15 per cent, ACT 11 per cent, NZ First 5 per cent, United Future 4 per cent and the Alliance 2 per cent.

Mr Ofsoske says those results did not reflect the actual election results.

The 2002 election saw Labour poll 41 per cent, National 21 per cent, New Zealand First 10 per cent, ACT 7 per cent, Greens 7 per cent and United Future 7 per cent.

“It’s interesting that the students’ votes do not necessarily reflect their parents voting patterns. I think young people are developing their own political opinions earlier,” Mr Ofsoske says.

The students’ votes will be kept under lock and key until Monday 19 September following the general election on 17 September.

The votes will then be counted and schools should have their results within the week.

ENDS

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