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Bring Election 2020 into the classroom

September 2nd, 2020 By Janice Rodrigues

On 17 October, people will line up at polling booths to cast their vote for New Zealand's 53rd general election. This blog post has some ideas and resources to help students learn about politics, politicians, and the general election.

Woman walking purposefully towards voting sign

Voting in New Zealand

Not everyone had voting rights when the first elections took place in New Zealand on 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 the ‘electorate vote’ goes to the Member of Parliament (MP) the voter chooses for the electorate in which they live.

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. After every election under MMP, the Government has been formed with a coalition of political parties.

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 literacy, information literacy, and visual literacy skills. At the same time, a civics and social science focus helps them understand their rights and responsibilities as New Zealand citizens.

Get rangatahi and everyone into the election mood!

It will be 'first time voting' for many rangatahi (youth) aged 18 and over. Their vote will ensure that they have a say in decisions that impact them and their future. Here are some resources to get them into the swing of voting.

  • Vote NZ — to check eligibility to vote, how to enrol, where to vote, and information about the referendums.
  • Electoral Commission — for details about political parties and general election information. Also find here Be Heard a teaching resource for level 5, and a range of posters in different languages that can be downloaded and displayed in class.

Here are more resources for everyone else who is yet to be able to vote, but can still join in the spirit of the elections:

  • Policy for Schools from The Spinoff, who has worked with schools to create a range of easy activities to help students understand and engage in election issues. There's also a policy idea competition.
  • The Fight to Vote by Susan Paris (on TKI's Literacy online) gives the history of women’s right to vote in New Zealand.
  • Politics from 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 from TKI contains a wide variety of resources related to government processes and decision-making, including the role of Parliament and the electoral process.
  • Teaching voting at schools is a section on the Electoral Commission website with resources to help 'make your students active, enthusiastic citizens'. Resources include support to run a mock election in your school and teaching units aligned to different levels.

Online resources from Service to Schools

Topic Explorer

Topic Explorer topics contain carefully curated resources that can serve as discussion points for inquiry learning.

  • General elections resources cover the history and importance of general election campaigns in New Zealand. It includes resources from DigitalNZ, Alexander Turnbull Library, Papers Past, government websites, and also popular media sites.
  • Women's suffrage covers the history of the campaign in New Zealand, petitions, leading suffragettes, anti-suffrage challenges, the final victory, and women’s issues and rights today.

Many Answers and AnyQuestions

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 during 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.

Keeping up to date with the general election

Here are some places to keep in touch with the latest developments in the general election:

  • Radio New Zealand has Election 2020 which allows you to listen, read, and watch reporting and interviews from the political front as events occur.
  • Newshub has a special NZ Election 2020 page to keep you updated with political news as it happens.
  • TVNZ has Your Vote 2020, which features key stories, election information, political analysis, and the results of the latest Colmar Brunton Polls in the build-up to the elections.
  • New Zealand Herald has a Politics page with political reports, videos, and breaking news as it happens.

Test your political leaning

These resources are great tools for exploring major election issues:

  • On the Fence 2020 is an online tool to get New Zealand voters on a political decision-making journey for the 2020 General Election.
  • Policy NZ Election 2020 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.
  • Vote Compass 2020 allows voters to rate issues, identify their stand on big policy questions, and rate parties and their leaders.

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.

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