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Kids give voting a go ahead of local body elections

They're not old enough to vote, but schoolchildren are having their say at the ballot box in order to learn more about how elections work.

Year nine students at Epsom Girls Grammar School in Auckland have been taking part in an Auckland Council-run project called Kids Voting, where they are given the chance to vote in an election in their classroom.

More than 12,000 students in 56 schools across Auckland are taking part.

Marguerite Delbet of Auckland Council democracy services said the project aimedto get young people interested in politics.

"Kids Voting is an opportunity to give real life experience about what an election is... and this time they'll vote online and build knowledge, confidence and their belief in the local body system."

The kids vote in a mock election using real voting forms and for real candidates.

Delbet said it built their confidence for when they turned 18 and were eligible to vote.

"If you teach them early they will do it."

EGGS head of social studies Pauline Farra said the school had been running the programme for the pastfew years and used it to create "citizens of the future".

"Of course one of the responsibilities of the citizen is to vote, and if they don't know and had no experience they're likely to be one of those large number of young people that don't vote."

Farra said the school rana government topic every year, and she "dreads" teaching it because she was apprehensive about how it wouldbe received.

"But the girls really, really enjoy it, they love it... they were amazed when they started doing their research on the candidates."

The students used mobile devices to research and vote for candidates, a system not currently enjoyed by adult voters.

"They're digital citizens, so there's no probably from their point of view - it's part of their life."

Thirteen-year-old Dithmi Ranasinghe said she found getting her head around local body politics "pretty difficult" at first, but she was now enjoying the experience.

"I've been seeing a lot of [election advertising] boards around. It's pretty important to us, we need a person who can actually help us."

The consistently miserable turnout for local elections was "disappointing", she said.

"It's worth it, of course it's worth it - for everybody."

Classmate Luka Jefferson, 13, had a pragmatic approach to exercising her democratic right.

"I think it's quite simple... just read and choose the one you like."

At the end of the programme, the students will see how their results compare with those of the official election.

In 2013, both the students and adults elected Len Brown for mayor, but the youngsters opted for a shake-up around the council table as they differed on eight of the seats from the real election.

- NZ Herald

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