Pupils inspired to vote

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Two Otago Girls’ High School pupils are busy researching candidates after being inspired to vote in Dunedin’s local elections.
Molly-Rose Taylor (18) and Danni Cuthbertson (18) had not given much thought to the upcoming elections until they were reminded of the fact New Zealand women were the first in the world to be allowed to vote, during a talk given at their school.
Community Board Executive Committee member Christine Garey has been visiting high schools and residential colleges in Dunedin to talk to first-time voters about the importance of having their say.
Molly-Rose said she was ‘‘definitely influenced’’ by the talk.
‘‘She was really inspirational and told us how important it was for women to vote. I think that resonated with both of us, being quite strong feminists.
‘‘I’ve talked about New Zealand being the first to give women the right to vote in speeches, and yet we’re not exercising that right.’’
Being in their final year of high school and deciding what to do next year meant things such as local elections were not always top of the priority list for first-time voters, she said.
Danni said when deciding who to vote for, she would be looking for those with experience who knew what they were getting themselves into.
‘‘I’d probably vote for someone who is really interested in getting Dunedin up and going with its architecture. We have such amazing buildings.’’
Molly-Rose said she was looking at doing political papers at university next year.
‘‘It is simply because I want to know more, because I’m embarrassed that I don’t know enough.’’
Local Government New Zealand acting chief executive Helen Mexted said electoral turnout was declining in many parts of the world.
‘‘Turnout in local government and parliamentary elections in New Zealand has declined by more than 20% over the last 25 years. LGNZ is committed to reversing this trend at the local level and raise turnout to at least 50%.
‘‘Young people vote less than any other group. Fewer than 30% of people under the age of 24 vote in local government elections and academics suggest that if people do not vote when they are young they may never vote. Increasing young people’s understanding about local government and civics in general is recognised as one way of reversing the decline in voting.’’
In North Dunedin 48.72% of 17,300 eligible voters between 18 and 24 have enrolled, and in South Dunedin 82.6% of the 5040 eligible 18 to 24-year-olds have enrolled.