Youth not up with play on elections

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Young South Canterbury residents say they know very little about local body elections, and think social media would
be a good way to engage youth in the voting process.
The Courier
spoke to five 17 and 18-year-old Mountainview High School pupils this week and asked them what they knew about the October elections.
Mae-Kwai Auld, Asyiqin Japi, Jacob Stonehouse, Gus Leen and Erin Shaw all said they knew very little about the candidates.
They said, although they were excited about the opportunity to vote this year, they did not know whom they would vote for.
‘‘I have seen the posters around town and just think ‘Who are these people?’’’ Mae-Kwai said.
The five said they had not been proactive in finding out about the candidates, and thought most young people their age would be the same.
‘‘The interest isn’t high,’’ Gus said.
‘‘Maybe if the candidates did something through the schools, that would help.’’
The pupils suggested candidates give a presentation at the school and engage youth through social media.
They said online voting would also be a good option for young people.
They were also unaware of what councils did in the community.
‘‘I just know about rates and very little else,’’ Erin said.
‘‘Plus keeping the town tidy.’’
They hoped the newly elected Timaru District Council would look at engaging more youth and suggested tidying up Stafford St as it was ‘‘looking a bit shabby’’.
‘‘Something to keep young ones here would be good, as our population is quite senior and a lot of younger ones leave to go to university,’’ Asyiqin said.
Local Government New Zealand director of advocacy Helen Mexted said a lack of engagement by youth in local body elections was a concerning issue.
An increasing awareness concerning online activity, including social media, had been given consideration, Ms Mexted said.
‘‘We are certainly looking at online voting for future elections. It’s a matter of working with Government around security issues and getting it signed off.
‘‘It is important for youth to be engaged in local government in terms of having strong local democracy. It’s really about having a representative view from all New Zealanders.’’
Electoral Commission communications manager Anastasia Turnbull said the Rangitata electorate ‘‘actually has comparatively strong youth enrolment statistics, an average of 86.6% across 18 to 29-yearolds, compared with an average of 71.4% nationwide’’.