5 Mar 2017

Children's day highlights push for younger voting age

9:32 pm on 5 March 2017

Today is National Children's Day, and Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft says it's a good time to think about lowering the voting age to 16.

18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Andrew Becroft,  Children's Commissioner.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The idea was raised by the former MP, Sue Bradford in 2007 but the Greens' caucus prevented her from putting it to Parliamentary ballot.

She raised the idea again in 2011 as a Mana Party MP, but the idea still did not gain traction.

In a 2014 poll, fewer than 7 percent of respondents agreed with allowing 16-year-olds to vote.

But Judge Becroft said Children's Day 2017 was an opportunity to reconsider the idea, because there is more international precedent for it.

He said anyone could point to the disadvantages, including that kids were still pretty young at 16 and 17, but many of them would have keen views and opinions on issues.

"Allowing them to vote would mean that political parties would have to think more explicitly about what are their interests and their views and are they being taken into account," he said.

The chairperson of the Palmerston North City Youth Council, Sarah White, who's 17, agrees, saying young people are very politically aware and they do want to vote.

"The main reason why I would want to vote is so I have a say in how my future is shaped, we're going to be leading in the country at some stage and we want to have a say in how that's going to work."

The voting age is 16 in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey and Scotland, and it is age 17 in Indonesia, Korea, North Seychelles, Sudan and Timor-Leste.

It became temporarily legal for Scottish 16-year-olds to vote in the 2014 Referendum in which the country voted to remain with Britain - a vote in which 75 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds took part.

Sarah White

Sarah White Photo: Supplied

That led the Scottish Parliament to permanently enfranchise 16- and 17-year-olds in time for the Scottish Parliamentary vote in May 2016, but it was not clear how many took part.

Judge Becroft said Scotland and other countries who had given the age group the right to vote had now set a precedent that New Zealand should consider, and National Children's Day was a good time to start thinking about it.

Ms White said we are going to be the leaders in the future.

"We don't want to be picking up the mess from the people before us. We want to have our say so we can make it strive and be better."

Ms White said that if young people could vote, they would put a lot more effort into researching who to vote for.

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