Boards call for civics education in schools

Publish Date : 23 Feb 2023
Purple Voting Pack In Your Letterbox 1360Px (1)

Civics and citizenship education should be made compulsory to boost participation in local government elections, the Manurewa and Papakura Local Boards say.

Providing feedback to Auckland Council’s response to the inquiry into the 2022 local body elections, board members said low voter turnout could be addressed by introducing the subjects into schools.

Manurewa chair Glenn Murphy says citizenship education should be part of the social studies curriculum.

“That could include components on local and central government, running mock elections and age-appropriate civics education could even be included in primary schools.”

He said members believed the local government election voting process could be simplified and should be made as similar as possible to central government elections.

Manurewa and Papakura both had very low voter turnout at the recent council elections.

“Engagement with target communities to increase participation needs to be ongoing, not something that only gets undertaken in the lead-up to elections, and we need to be working with community groups to increase the understanding of local government,” Murphy says.

“Those engagement programmes need to be funded appropriately by central government.”

Members of both boards rejected election services being provided by private organisations. “We prefer responsibility be given to the Electoral Commission, with its track record for competently running elections. It makes sense to use it for local government elections,” acting Papakura Chair Jan Robinson says.

That would also mean the same body was responsible for enrolling voters and overseeing the election, simplifying matters for voters and allowing for a ‘one-stop shop’ approach, where voters could enrol and vote at the same time.

“The postal voting system is no longer effective and there should be better options for in-person voting on top of it. We may need to make postal voting more secure if it is to be retained and clearly online voting should be explored.”

Both boards called for the voter experience to be as similar as possible to general elections in a bid to reduce confusion and encourage turnout. Offering in-person voting and having a strongly promoted voting period, including a final ‘election day’ should be part of that.

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