18 Jul 2022

Make it 16 gains traction at Youth Parliament

From The House , 4:55 pm on 18 July 2022

Youth MPs are expected to present an open letter to Parliament calling for the voting age to be lowered. 

Make it 16, the organisation seeking to lower the voting age, has widespread support from the country’s Youth MPs, with a number of them pledging support for the movement in a video published on Instagram.

Youth MP and Make it 16 co-director Cate Tipler (centre) sits with other Youth MPs in the theatrette

Photo: Matteo Zhang

Make it 16 co-director Cate Tipler, a Youth MP for the Green Party’s Golriz Ghahraman, is recognised as one of the key leaders in the fight for reducing the voting age.

“Make it 16 was founded out of the 2019 Youth Parliament where it received support from across the house. I think it's significant that we're still fighting for our right to vote years later, when we have already shown over and over again that we're capable of voting and should have a voice in Parliament,” they said.

Back in April when Youth Parliament kicked off with the traditional biscuit tin ballot, the Electoral (Voting Age) Amendment Bill featured as one of three on the ballot. Despite not being drawn, the issue will still be discussed by the 120 Youth MPs in this week’s Youth Parliament. Tipler sees this as a clear sign that the voting age is a key issue for youth. 

“Make it 16 is hugely relevant to the mock Bill that was drawn as it shows how a lack of representation in parliament means you're ignored by politicians and face unfair discrimination because of that.”

It’s fitting that Make it 16 is taking centre stage at this Youth Parliament, as the organisation’s conception was sparked by an idea during the previous term of Youth Parliament in 2019. 

Watched by their fellow Youth MPs, Make-it-16 co-director Cate Tipler adds their signature to an open letter to Parliament that Youth MPs are signing - calling for the voting age to be lowered.

Watched by their fellow Youth MPs, Make-it-16 co-director Cate Tipler adds their signature to an open letter to Parliament that Youth MPs are signing - calling for the voting age to be lowered. Photo: Phil Smith

It’s also fitting that Tipler is the Youth MP for Ghahraman who, as the Green Party’s justice spokesperson, has championed reducing the voting age from 18 to allow 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote. Last month saw Ghahraman’s Member's Bill, the Electoral (Strengthening Democracy) Amendment Bill drawn from the biscuit tin and set for consideration by MPs.

As well as lowering the voting age, the Bill would also see Māori roll voters be able to change roll at any time, overturn the prisoner voting ban, and implement recommendations of the 2012 MMP review. Ghahraman’s Bill goes further than the recent electoral changes proposed by Justice Minister Kiri Allen in the Electoral Amendment Bill which would only see tightening of rules for political donations, and temporarily widen access for overseas voters.

The government has been criticised by Make it 16 for its cautious approach to reducing the voting age. During the 2020 general election, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declined to say yes or no to the issue. 

"I wouldn't rule it out in the future but let's get civics right first, let's support our young people to learn about politics," said Ardern.

While the government earlier this year signed off on a new history curriculum to be introduced, there’s been no move to address the lack of civics education being taught in New Zealand. 

Despite limited apparent movement in parliament, Make it 16 has continued to grow its outreach on a national level. It has received backing from 72 members of local government including Mayors, Councillors, and local board members in an open letter organised by Make It 16.

The group has also taken the issue to the Supreme Court where it seeks a declaration that the voting age of 18 is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. 

Previously, both the High Court and Court of Appeal had declined to declare an inconsistency, deciding the matter was one which lay in the hands of Parliament.

“Many Youth MPs I know see lowering the voting age as part of the solution to making our country better for rangatahi, I hope MPs will see that too,” Tipler said.

*Matteo Zhang is a member of the Youth Press Gallery which takes the role of independent media reporting on Youth MPs and Youth Parliament 2022. This article can be republished freely on your platform subject to the following conditions:

  • It must be republished as is (this can include visuals credited to VNP or NZ Parliament)
  • It must include the following attribution to RNZ as the copyright owner: This story was originally published on RNZ and is republished with permission.