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16 and 17 year olds may have the right to vote after the upcoming election, as discussion around New Zealand’s voting age has been sparked by Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft.
Becroft stated that it was a good time to consider the change, which “would mean that political parties would have to think more explicitly about [16 and 17 year olds’] interests and their views.”
When approached by Salient, a representative for Young Nats — Lower North Island said they had “not formally debated the issue of lowering the voting age to 16,” but they anticipated “that there would be low enthusiasm from membership for the proposal, including from our members under 18 years of age.”
Conversely, a Young Labour representative told Salient that “[we] adapted our position of lowering the voting age to include 16 and 17 year olds at our 2012 conference.”
“We are proud of our advocacy on this issue, and proud that the Labour Party policy platform at the 2013 conference was amended to now read ‘Labour will work to extend the ability for 16 and 17 year olds to participate in the democratic process.”
A seventeen-year old student, who spoke with Salient but chose to remain anonymous, said that it was “unfair” that they were not entitled to vote alongside their university peers. “Politicians are making big decisions about stuff that affects us, but we aren’t allowed a say. Why not?”
A common argument in favour of a lower the age is increased voter engagement. In 2015 the Scottish Parliament lowered the voting age to 16, after a 75 per cent turnout from the age-group (16- and 17- year-olds) in the Scottish independence referendum, a significantly higher turnout than the 18–24 group.
There is evidence to support the theory that voting is a habit — if individuals vote once, they are more likely to continue to vote in the future.