7 August 2017

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Students and young people across the country have joined a national movement to change the way we do politics in Aotearoa. Unashamedly ambitious, the We Have Power campaign aims to get every student to vote in the upcoming general election.

The campaign launches digitally on social media today. The website, wehavepower.org.nz, will also go live concurrently with the digital launch. The campaign has already reached 15 tertiary campuses across the country at the time of launch.

'We Have Power is based on the belief that students and young people are a change making, powerful political force when we turn out and vote. This is the beginning of a political transformation to make politics work better for us on the issues that we need it to’, says spokesperson Jonathan Gee.

The campaign was inspired by young political movements overseas such as the surge in youth voting in the recent UK election, and ‘big organising’ models of campaigning in the 2016 US primaries.

We Have Power (WHP) volunteer Kealyn Marshall (Te Atihaunui a Paparangi, Ngā Rauru, Te Whanau a Apanui), 21, first time voter and teaching student at Victoria University, says ‘the reason why I've taken more interest around this year’s elections is following the impact that young voters had during the UK elections that a difference can actually be made.’

WHP works in three ways. First, it’s about mass volunteer mobilisation of young people across Aotearoa. Second, it’s about training those volunteers to have political conversations with their communities - through facebanking, textbanking, and in person in their flats, halls, lecture theatres, sports clubs, faith groups - or anywhere they connect with other young people. Third, it’s a hardline get out the vote where our volunteers go to the polls and vote alongside the people they’ve spoken with.

This style of campaigning is bold. It’s about using new technologies, and the social connections that define the lives of many young people to bring their ways of doing politics to the election.

‘Students and young people are an incredibly diverse community and no one size fits all approach has any hope of being successful. Our campus teams have the ability to speak to the communities they know best, and in ways that make sense to them,’ says Jonathan.

‘We Have Power aims to flip the misconstrued narrative that low youth voter turnout is due to apathy. Instead, the movement believes that politics has failed to speak to the aspirations, experiences and lived realities of young people which has led to this disillusionment. By voting, we have the power to change things.’

WHP volunteer Moana Potaka (Ngati Whakaue, Tapuika, Waitaha, Ngati Wai), 28, business studies student at Eastern Institute of Technology, says ‘many of the barriers to education facing students like low income, poor housing, and lack of ability to travel to campus can be fixed by politicians. If politicians used their power to stand up for students, students would use their power to vote them into Parliament.’

WHP volunteer Emily Barker, 22, fine arts student at the University of Canterbury says it is crucial that we empower young people to vote, ‘at the end of the day, we will inherit the outcomes of this election.’

We Have Power is a campaign coordinated by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).