First-timers look forward to vote

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2014
18 year old voters
MAARTEN HOLL/ Fairfax NZ
TALKING POLITICS: Tawa College year 13 students Stuart Hope, left, and Bea Wooding, right, are eligible to vote in the general election this year but Emma Stewart misses out by three months.

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The message is going out to 18-year-olds on the importance of voting in September's general election - and it looks like it's hitting home at Tawa College.

Year 13 student Bea Wooding has been looking forward for years to being able to vote. "I want to vote because even if my one vote doesn't make a difference, it's better than not voting at all."

She admits she doesn't know as much about politics as she should, but she does her best to keep up through the news media.

"I don't really talk with my parents about it, and I don't know how they vote. It's my own decision."

There are 10,100 year 13 students at secondary schools across the country who will be 18 and able to vote by polling day on September 20.

The Electoral Commission has been visiting schools leading up to the election, and Wellington's registrar, Toni Weir, said the key was explaining to students that politicians were more likely to take notice of them if more of them voted. "I put it in the context that there's a whole lot of old people like me voting but that's not going to get young people what they want."

Students' voting knowledge was varied. "Some students have an understanding of elections and are even already enrolled when we turn up.

"It's a case of explaining why it's important to vote, and getting them on the roll early so they're involved in the process."

Wooding said students often complained about issues like university fees, but did not make the connection that voting could change it.

"It would be good if more of the politicians from our electorate came into schools and spoke to us about their policies and answered our questions."

Meanwhile, classmate Emma Stewart, 17, is disappointed she will miss out by three months - but it has not stopped her eagerly absorbing political scandals.

"I hear my parents talk about politics all the time and they discuss all the scandals and election dirt. My grandparents are really into politics as well . . . I wish I was old enough to vote this year, but I'm going to have to wait."

Stewart is one of 18,700 provisional enrolments registered by the Electoral Commission to date. They are 17-year-olds who aren't eligible to vote this year, but will automatically join the electoral roll when they turn 18.

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