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March 12, 2018 | by  | in News Splash |
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Judge Becroft Calls to Lower the Voting Age

His Honour Judge Andrew Becroft, the New Zealand Children’s Commissioner, has asked MPs to consider lowering the voting age to 16.

Judge Becroft appeared before the Social Services Select Committee at Parliament in February, and urged them to lead a nationwide discussion on the issue. He told the committee that it may provide headway to involving more young people in the electoral and democratic process.

Judge Becroft heads the Office of the Children’s Commission, a non-profit group which advocates for children’s rights.

“All that I have seen about our democratic system, shows that those that are least involved and invested in it are our young. The lowest voting turnout is the 18-29 age group, we’ve got to do better.”

Judge Becroft suggested this would need to be in conjunction with increased civic education for people below the age of 18.  “We need a commitment to teach about the operation of Government, how kids can be involved, what voting means, everything I’ve seen indicates that 16 and 17-year-olds will be up for that responsibility.”

At the base of Judge Becroft’s concerns is a belief that young people do not have enough influence in the political system, and thus do not feel as if they are able to enact their agency.

“Children under 18 make up 23% of New Zealand’s population, but have no other way of influencing policy.  If they voted and had a lobby, I’m quite convinced that our policy for under 18-year-olds would significantly improve.”

He highlighted the fact that while we lead the world in support for the elderly, we are one of the worst ranked for developed countries in our child poverty rates.

Not all politicians in New Zealand are supportive of lowering the voting age. ACT leader David Seymour said he did not believe we should be increasing the number of non-taxpayers voting.

“We’ve got far too many voters in New Zealanders who don’t pay any tax without adding 16 and 17 year olds to the mix.”

National Party leader Simon Bridges told the New Zealand Herald that although he was open to the idea, he did not see lowering the age as a critical issue.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily something that needs to happen. I think you’d have to see an evidence base for why that was a good idea.”

Several countries around the world have sixteen as the minimum voting age, namely Germany, Austria, Brazil, and Scotland.

When Austria lowered the voting age, it was found that voters below eighteen turned out to vote at higher rates than first-time voters of ages 18 to 20.

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