Pupils to vote in mock election

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Oamaru teenagers will be given a taste of voting rights, with a mock election being run nationwide for those not yet old enough to vote.

Waitaki Girls’ High School pupils are joining about 85,000 others across the country, from 590 participating schools, taking 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.

Waitaki Girls’ social science teacher Jessica Wright said the mock election fitted in well with the decision-making topic of the year 9 curriculum which they would look at nearer the end of term. This looked at leadership and leadership styles, as well as different government styles.

Most, if not all, of the year 9 pupils would take part.

“We have to spend quite a bit of time making sure their sources of information are reliable. Because obviously they gain a lot of their information from social media and we need to spend quite a bit of time on learning to be intelligent consumers of information, really that’s quite a skill for them,” Mrs Wright said.

“In terms of the election, it is very cool that we have got two female leaders who have very strong personalities. So we talk a lot about different policies and making sure that the girls look at the policies more than the personalities. Because in the end, these girls are going to be voting in two elections’ time.”

Mrs Wright said while it was great that the girls had strong opinions when it came to politics, their role as teachers was to ensure it was well informed opinion.

“You know the youth are very vocal in the way they think things should be run, and that’s great. We want them to be intelligent young women who have an opinion, that’s the whole point. But we need that to be in a well thought out manner. I really like the fact that the kids’ voting is very much about politics in the local and national communities and so we’ll have some of the councillors come in and talk to us as well.”

Women’s suffrage and the strong role women play in New Zealand communities, as opposed to some other countries, were also up for discussion, Mrs Wright said.

“As a girls’ school, talking about the strength that we have as voters and community members.

“It is a topic that can be quite dry, so this adds a bit more interest.”

Teaching resources would be sent out to registered schools over the next few weeks, including a guide to running their own election, and ballot boxes, chief electoral officer Alicia Wright said.

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

About half the schools taking part had elected to receive referendum papers so students could vote on the end of life choice and cannabis referendums. Waitaki Girls’ chose to do that.