National campaign launched to get more students voting in general election
A new campaign aims to debunk the widely-held belief that young voters are not engaged in the political process.
Voter apathy has long been pointed to as one of the key drivers keeping youths out of voting booths.
In response, 15 tertiary campuses have come together for the 'We Have Power' campaign, which has set the lofty goal of getting every student to vote in September's general election.
The campaign's message is that if four out of five under-30s vote, the group would become the strongest voting bloc in the country and could lead to real change.
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New Zealand Union of Students' Association president Jonathan Gee said the pro-vote message will be delivered using new technology and by empowering students to have political discussions.
"There's been this narrative that low youth voter turnout has been due to youth apathy or young people not caring and I think that's a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said.
"If we say to young people they don't care, they won't care. So, as a campaign, we're flipping that narrative on its head and we are saying we want every single student in Aotearoa to vote."
The national campaign, which has drawn inspiration by the surge in youth voters during the recent British elections, will see volunteers use Facebook and text messaging to connect with others over political issues.
Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association president, Rory Lenihan-Ikin, said a number of events were being planned to pique political interest.
Live debates, enrolment competitions and political speed-dating - where students are paired up for discussions about politics - are among the events slated for the Wellington campus.
Lenihan-Ikin acknowledged there has been a disconnect between students and politics in the past.
"The biggest thing is that the political system hasn't been speaking to young people in a way that works for them," he said.
"Politicians haven't been talking and engaging and inspiring young people. Young people haven't felt like their issues are of importance and the way of engaging hasn't evolved with the times.
The group is facing an uphill battle. Voters aged 18 to 39 had the lowest enrolment and turnout levels in 2014.
Massey University pro vice-chancellor, Professor Claire Robinson said young voters were not apathetic.
"They just need to feel that they have something to vote for. At the moment, political parties don't create anything that appeals to these voters."