Bring Elections 2017 into the classroom

On 23 September 2017, people will line up at polling booths to cast their vote for New Zealand's 52nd General Election. This blog has ideas and resources to help students learn about politics, politicians and the General Election.

Two young people heading into a voting placeHeading to a voting place. Electoral Commission. CC BY-ND 3.0.

Voting in New Zealand

Not everyone had voting rights when the first elections took place in New Zealand on the 14 July 1853. However from 1867, all Māori men were able to vote, and in 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the vote. Today, all New Zealand citizens and permanent residents (except some prisoners) over the age of 18 are entitled to vote.

New Zealand uses the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system of voting to elect politicians. In this system, a voter gets 2 votes.

  • The first vote or ‘party vote’ goes to the political party that the voter chooses.
  • The second vote or ‘electorate vote’ goes to the candidate the voter chooses for the electorate in which they live. The candidate with the most votes becomes the Member of Parliament (MP).

The party vote decides the total number of seats each political party gets in Parliament. The party with the majority of seats usually gets to form the Government for the next 3 years.

In the months and weeks leading up to an election, politics and politicians are in the media spotlight. This media frenzy provides a good opportunity for teachers and school librarians to focus on developing students' media, information, and visual literacy skills. At the same time, the civics and social science focus will help them understand their rights and responsibilities as New Zealand citizens.

Let's get young people interested

In 2014, young people aged 18–24 and 25–29 had the lowest voter participation rates of any age group in the country according to the Electoral Commission.

Bringing elections into the classroom and getting young people interested in the political process will help them grow into more engaged and informed citizens.

Classroom resources for the 2017 election

Topic Explorer

Topic Explorer subjects are carefully curated sets of resources that can serve as discussion points for inquiry learning.

General Elections is a newly added set put together especially for the 2017 General Election. It includes resources from DigitalNZ, Alexander Turnbull Library, Papers Past, government websites and also popular media sites.

Many Answers

These carefully written entries guide students directly to websites and other resources on the New Zealand General Election and related topics.


AnyQuestions librarians from around New Zealand are available online from 1 pm to 6 pm on school term weekdays. Their aim is to help students find the most suitable resources for their homework questions, such as those about the upcoming General Election.

Other resources

Electoral Commission Te Kaitiaki Take Kōwhiri has a page dedicated to school resources including a kids voting programme and teaching units aligned to different levels.

Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) provides some interesting links to explore, including a The Fight to Vote (pdf, 1.6MB) by Susan Paris, which gives the history of women’s right to vote in New Zealand.

NZ On Screen has archived footage of New Zealand politics from unforgettable moments in parliament and election campaigns to speeches, campaign advertisements and the lives of party candidates.

Teaching resources and information about our constitution contains a wide variety of resources related to the government processes and decision-making, including the role of Parliament and the electoral process.

Keeping up to date with the General Elections

Here are some ways to keep in touch with the latest developments in the General Elections. These sites can be explored as websites or downloaded as apps.

Radio New Zealand allows you to listen, read and watch reporting and interviews from the political front as events occur.

Newshub has a special General Election page to keep you updated with political news as it happens.

New Zealand Herald has a politics section. There is also an infographics page which has useful political information including a chart to test how much you know about New Zealand politics.

Test your political leaning

Vote Compass lets you take a test to calculate your alignment with the major political parties.

The Spinoff helps you to decide who to vote for based on how you view the top issues of today compared to the policies of our major political parties.

Both of these resources are great tools for exploring major election issues.

Join the election fever and learn too

Billboards, debates, political meetings, and the media all create an atmosphere of excitement, and anticipation — who will lead New Zealand for the next 3 years?

The General Election offers a great opportunity for students to investigate and reflect on the potential candidates' philosophies, and policies, and also our electoral system and its history.

By Janice Rodrigues

Janice is a Librarian (Online Services) with Services to Schools.

Post a Comment

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Geoff Powell September 18th at 4:15PM

Surely one is not compelled to vote only for the sitting member. Is this a better exlanation?

The second vote or ‘electorate vote’ goes to the candidate the voter chooses for the electorate in which they live. The candidate with the most votes becomes the Member of Parliament (MP)

Janice Rodrigues September 26th at 9:57AM

“Thank you for reading our blog so closely. We can see where your confusion arose with our wording about the electorate vote. Thanks for your suggested alternative definition, which we are now using in this blog.”