Rangatahi at the forefront of Māori roll registration

3:27 pm on 20 September 2017

Rangatahi are more likely than any other age group to be registered on the Māori roll.

Teacher Jo Cameron and students after they voted.

Teacher Jo Cameron with some of the students she took to a polling booth on Monday. Photo: Supplied

In total, 3.2 million people had enrolled to vote by last Sunday, and over half a million - 550,970 - have already cast their ballots.

On the general roll, under 35s are lagging behind the rest of the population, figures released by the Electoral Commission show.

Just 68 percent of those aged 18-24 were enrolled by Sunday, with 76 percent of 25 to 29-year-olds and 86 percent of those 30-34 registered to vote. Every other age group has enrolment figures above 90 percent.

Among those on the Māori roll, rangatahi are at the forefront. The biggest group of registered voters is aged 18-24 with 33,958 enrolled, closely followed by those aged 25-29 with 27,518.

Tauranga teacher Jo Cameron said while she was pleasantly surprised by the enrolment numbers, she knew rangatahi were interested in politics and keen to take part.

Ms Cameron took 25 of her students from Te Wharekura o Mauao to a polling booth on Monday.

"The kids probably would not have had such a great experience if I hadn't been there to guide them. It was 11.45am on a Monday and the polling booth was packed with people most of whom were over the age of 70 and Pākehā - which does reflect the neighbourhood.

"There wasn't anyone to greet us or help us work out how you enrol and then vote on the same day. So if I hadn't been there advocating for them they might have just turned around and gone.

"And there were a couple of comments made from some of the passing by voters ... but the kids put all that to one side, and were really excited ... and came out with their stickers on, proudly telling each other who they'd voted for."

All of the students opted to go on the Māori roll, which meant the staff at the polling place had to quickly photocopy more papers for the Waiariki electorate.

Instead of being discouraged by the lines and the wait, the students who were too young to vote were still keen to enrol.

"I said, 'There's no rush, if you can't vote today, we can enrol you online.'

"They said: 'No Whaea, we want to enrol now, we want to be on the roll so the next time there's a vote we'll get the papers.'

"And I said: 'Well it won't actually be a general election, the next one will be a local body election,' and they were all: 'Aww yeah, for the city council, cool!'"

Ms Cameron said she took the 17-year-olds to the polling place because she wanted them to get familiar with the process.

"I wanted them to see what it looks like, what it feels like, so that when it is their turn, it just comes naturally to them to think that they would go and vote."

The younger kaiako [teachers] at the wharekura who were not enrolled have been inspired by their students and have asked for a refresher on MMP before they too advance vote this week.

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