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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Empowerment of young voters during annual National School Voter Registration Drive”

NewsLetter The session commenced with a brief introduction of the demographical and geographical features of Fiji. After eight years of military rule prior to 2014, the first General Election was held in 2014 in which 90 % eligible voters where registered out of which 84 % voted.

Voter registration in Fiji started in 2012. A total of 591,101 voters had been registered from an estimated 620,000 eligible population. Of the 591,101, 192,071 were below the age of 30 and voting for the first time.

Post 2014 General Election, the FEO established that it would now need to focus on registering those who would become eligible after the General Election. Since education is both free and compulsory until year 13, FEO decided to design an annual registration drive in Secondary Schools and vocational training facilities. The FEO began its National school registration and information drive in 2015 from 13 July to 7 August and also in 2016 from 6 June to 1 July targeting eligible voters across 178 secondary schools. Schools located in isolated areas and maritime islands were included in this drive as well.

With approval from the Ministry of Education, the FEO organizes the election related awareness campaigns and event with the assistance of the school administration. Face to face information sessions pertaining to elections were conducted with senior secondary school students. The teams also distributed awareness materials including the crowd favourite wrist ‘slap-on’ straps as well as the ‘choose to register’ armbands.

In 2015, the FEO registered 6065 students, however, 8005 students attended the initial information session. In 2016, 5807 students registered, but 8069 attended the information session. Every year an average of 13,000 new voters, who turn 18 years, get themselves registered which are covered in twice a year registration process.The Voter card in Fiji is a universally used card and hence gives the voters more reasons to register.

The FEO uses the Information Sessions to promote electoral participation, create awareness on voter responsibility as well as provide information on the Fijian electoral processes. Annual School Voter Registration drives received good coverage from print and broadcast media. International media also carried the news. The media recorded clips of young voters and their thoughts about their responsibilities after they became registered.

Apart from this, the political parties are encouraged to include young citizens in their parties so that the youth is represented in the electoral process and this creates more excitement and enhances the participation of the youth in elections.

The FEO also used social media platforms to reach out to the young voters. FEO uploaded videos of the schools visited on Facebook to gauge and record how students felt about registering to vote for the first time. A number of posts were also put up on a daily basis to inform the public on the activities during the drive. Selfies with the newly registered voters is a great way to sustain the awareness drives. Aside from elections, this is one of the busiest times on FEO’s social media sites.

Mohammed Saneem,
Supervisor of Elections