The next generation of voters look set to be more prepared than ever thanks to a nationwide mock election programme.
Under-18-year-olds won't be left out when adults head to voting places in September as about 85,000 students are set to prove over the next few months.
The students, from 590 schools, are preparing to organise and take 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.
The schools participating from Bay of Plenty are Katikati College, Whakatāne High School, Western Heights High School, Aquinas College, Te Whata Tau o Putauaki, Aorangi School and Bethlehem School.
The exercise in civics and citizenship education is part of the Electoral Commission's Kids Voting – Te Pōti a Ngā Tamariki programme.
Registered schools will start receiving teaching resources over the next few weeks, including a guide to running their own election, a ballot box, digital inquiry cards to prompt conversations, a video explaining the voting system, and resources in te reo Māori.
Once electorate and list candidate names are released on August 22, registered schools will receive mock ballot papers containing real-life candidates' names so students can cast their votes and compare the results with the outcome of the September election.
About half of the schools have also elected to receive referendum papers so their students can vote on the end of life choice and cannabis referendums.
Chief electoral officer Alicia Wright said the programme was a practical way to help students understand how the electoral system worked and get them ready to vote when they turned 18.
"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 of the schools taking part were primary and intermediate schools and about half were secondary schools. It could be run on a small or large scale, from one to two classes to the whole school.
"It's great fun for students and teachers, and some schools go all out. Over the years we've seen some schools hosting candidate debates for their electorate, and others forming student branches of political parties and developing their own campaign material."
Schools can sign up for the programme at www.kidsvoting.co.nz.