Peer pressure is proving a potent tool in a new south Auckland campaign to get more young people to enrol to vote in the November general elections.
Head students are being used for the first time to help enrol their peers in a Manukau electoral office initiative to boost low youth enrolment rates.
Electoral registrar Kenneth Lam says the trial to bridge the generation gap is working well.
"The students respond much better to someone their own age than to strangers from our office who are middle-aged upwards, pretty old really."
Each year the electoral office visits 55 south Auckland high schools to deliver a presentation encouraging students aged 17 and 18 to enrol to vote.
It's normally an uphill battle. Youth lag behind the general enrolment rate of between 89 percent and 93 percent for the Manukau East, Manurewa and Mangere electorates.
"But this year six or seven schools used their head students to deliver the presentation for us," Mr Lam says.
More senior students turned out for those presentations and more signed up afterwards.
"The message has come across much better and hopefully we will expand it to more schools next year."
And Papatoetoe High School head girl Staci Munthree, 17, says having people "our own age talking" at the enrolment presentation made her peers feel more comfortable about signing up.
Young people are too ready to believe their opinions won't be heard, she says.
"But your voice does count and it should be heard.
"I urge a lot of young people to vote because we all have different voices and opinions and perspectives that need to be expressed."
Head boy Lerry Fa'amasino, also 17, hopes more Pasifika people will enrol and vote.
"There's a lot of islanders who don't care about voting because they don't view it as something good.
"Hopefully me promoting it will get them to think again and vote."
Unlike Staci, Lerry will turn 18 before November and is "looking forward to voting" in his first elections.
He's keen to get other young, first-time voters to "give it a go" too.
"I want them to do it so they can tell themselves they had a part in changing the future because it's their future as well.
"It's a good feeling knowing we're part of something bigger."
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE TO ENROL:
The voter rolls are now being updated for the November parliamentary elections and referendum.
To enrol to vote you must:
Be 18 years or older
Be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident
Have lived in New Zealand for one year or more without leaving the country.
Everyone who's turned 18 must enrol if they're eligible but it isn't compulsory to vote.
If you're 17, you can enrol provisionally and your name will automatically go on to the electoral roll on your 18th birthday.
To enrol, freetext 3676 with your name and address or freefone 0800 ENROL NOW.
Go to www.elections.org.nz or check out Orange Guy at www.facebook.com/IvoteNZ for more on how to enrol to vote.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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