New NZ Government Will Not Drop Voting Age to 16

The previous Ardern Labour government considered the move a ’test’ towards dropping the voting age for national elections.

Local government elections will continue to be decided by those 18 years or over, after the new tri-party New Zealand government axed an Ardern-era initiative to drop the voting age.

Local Government Minister Simeon Brown told the media last week the government did not support the Electoral (Lowering Voting Age for Local Elections and Polls) Legislation Bill, requesting the Justice Committee to end consideration of it.

In 2022, the Ardern-led Labour government agreed, in principle, to consider lowering the voting age in local elections as a test towards lowering the age for national elections.

Mr. Brown said ratepayers and residents expected their local council to stick to the “core business of efficiently and effectively delivering local infrastructure and services.”

“Worrying about how to implement a new voting age regime would be a costly distraction for councils who have enough issues to deal with right now. The previous government proposed lowering the voting age to 16 but could not provide the public with any convincing reason why.

“Their plans were without logic and we will not be progressing them,” he said in a statement.The movement to incorporate a younger bloc of voters was driven by the group, Make It 16, which aimed to “uplift and strengthen youth voices by lowering the voting age to 16.”

Countries that have adopted a 16-plus voting age include Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic (only if married), Ecuador, Estonia (only in local elections), Germany (selected areas for local and state elections), Hungary (only if married), Malta (only in local elections), Nicaragua and Slovenia (only if employed).

Make It 16 took a case to the Wellington High Court in 2020 to argue that a voting age of 18 was unjustified age discrimination under the Bill of Rights Act 1990.

According to their website, the thrust of the group’s desire for change was borne out of what they viewed as young people having little or no say in decisions at the civic and national level that “determine the course of our life (and) are not being decided by us.”

“Young people will be—and are—already bearing the brunt of decisions made around all of these issues, with little to no say in the solutions. As voices of the future, we deserve to have our say,” said the group.

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pledged a debate on lowering the New Zealand voting age to 16 after a landmark court ruling in 2022. (Robert Kitchin - Pool/Getty Images)
Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pledged a debate on lowering the New Zealand voting age to 16 after a landmark court ruling in 2022. (Robert Kitchin – Pool/Getty Images)

After the sitting judge found against the group, their case was taken to the Court of Appeal which upheld the previous ruling.

However, the case was then granted leave to apply to the Supreme Court, and in a landmark decision, the court ruled the current age limit was discriminatory given provisions in the Electoral Act and Local Electoral Act.

Subsequently, Prime Minister Ardern announced a bill would be raised in Parliament to debate the issue, and a supermajority, which requires 75 percent support in the house to pass—would be required.

 

Read More

Leave a Reply