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Kiwi kids to run their own ‘general elections’

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Under-18-year-olds don’t have to be left out when adults head to voting places in September as about 85,000 students are set to prove over the next few months.

The students, from 590 schools, are preparing to organise and take part in their own parallel general elections, complete with ballot boxes and mock ballot papers, in a bid to create an authentic experience of the democratic process in action.

Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright says the programme is a practical way to help students understand how the electoral system works and get them ready to vote when they turn 18.

“Voting is a lifelong habit, so the earlier young people start to vote, the more likely it is they will continue to vote.”

She says about half of the schools taking part are primary and intermediate schools and about half are secondary schools. It can be run on a small or large scale, from one to two classes to the whole school.

“It’s great fun for students and teachers, and some schools go all out. Over the years we’ve seen some schools hosting candidate debates for their electorate, and others forming student branches of political parties and developing their own campaign material.”

The exercise in civics and citizenship education is part of the Electoral Commission’s Kids Voting – Te Pōti a Ngā Tamariki programme.

Registered schools will start receiving teaching resources over the next few weeks, including a guide to running their own election, a ballot box, digital inquiry cards to prompt conversations, a video explaining the voting system, and resources in te reo Māori.

Once electorate and list candidate names are released on 22 August, registered schools will receive mock ballot papers containing real-life candidates’ names so students can cast their votes and compare the results with the outcome of the September election.

About half of the schools have also elected to receive referendum papers so their students can vote on the end of life choice and cannabis referendums.

Schools can sign up for the programme at www.kidsvoting.co.nz

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