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August 14, 2017 | by  | in Politics |
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The Party Line

On March 5, Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft suggested that New Zealand should consider lowering the voting age to 16. The idea is not without precedent — it was raised by former MP Sue Bradford in 2007 and 2011; and, internationally, countries including Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Scotland have a voting age of 16. Proponents argue that those under 18 are disenfranchised and lowering the voting age could increase turnout and engagement. Opponents disagree, and 17-year old Steve Walton, who wrote an opinion piece for Stuff in March, said “giving teenagers the vote would only lead to biased, naive, and uninformed decisions about issues we don’t understand.” Should the voting age be lowered to 16?


Greens at Vic

Absolutely. 16-year olds can get married, have children, and be taxed. They offer a unique and valuable voice and if we want to take youth participation seriously, allowing their voices in places of power is an essential part of that.

We would be following Scotland, Austria, Brazil, and others — all of whom have experienced a clear increase in voter turnout. 16-year olds are more often than not in a stable environment with access to civics education and parental support, increasing their likelihood of voting. Allowing 16-year olds to vote does not have any outrageous effect on electoral results, but does encourage a continued life participation in politics.

Voter turnout has been rapidly declining for 30 years, leading to politics clearly unfavourable and inaccessible to our most vulnerable. A strong political shift is necessary to boost voter participation and improve the representativeness of our electoral system.  

— Kayden Briskie


Young Nats — Lower North Island

The Young Nats have not taken an official stance on lowering the voting age nor actively discussed the issue as an organisation. However, we can assume limited support for lowering the age from all members, including those currently under 18.

In 1974, the Young Nats supported 18 being implemented as the voting age when this issue was considered before Parliament and subsequently legislated, and see no reason to shift from this stance.

As there is currently little evidence to suggest benefits to New Zealand lowering the voting age to 16, the Young Nats would consider 18 to be a fitting age for universal suffrage. The Young Nats, as an organisation, believe engaging young people in the democratic process is important, and emphasise that there are ways outside of voting for those under 18 to get involved and make their voices heard.

— Sam Stead,  LNI Young Nats Chair



VicLabour is pushing for the voting age to be reduced to 16, along with the need to provide good civics education.

The argument that 16 and 17-year olds wouldn’t understand the issues in front of them is flawed when we see 16-year olds presenting petitions to parliament and making informed arguments on issues they understand; to say nothing of the fact that a 30-year old doesn’t have to pass the same comprehension test to get their ballot paper.

If given the vote, 16 and 17-year olds would make more informed decisions than many of the older generations. Young voters often bring different perspectives, but that doesn’t make them any less valid. They face larger student loans than current tertiary students, and are more likely to be concerned about the impacts of climate change. Give them a voice, they will make it heard.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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