21 Aug 2020

Lower voting age means 'stronger democracy' - teen

11:35 am on 21 August 2020

Some 16 year olds are so determined to gain the right to vote, they're about to take their case to the High Court.

11153916 - a young woman with a voter in the voting booth. voting in a democracy

Sixteen-year-olds in countries like Austria and Scotland vote in higher numbers than other young people, a New Zealand teen says. Photo: 123RF

The members of Make It Sixteen, a youth-led campaign, will have their case heard on Monday.

They say the current voting age of 18 is unjustified age discrimination and it must be changed.

Ella Flavell who is a member of Make It Sixteen told Morning Report the case raised an important principle.

"We believe that this can bring change to New Zealand so that we can have a much more representative democracy and a stronger democracy so we're hoping this will give Parliament the precedent to change."

The outcome of the High Court case would not impact on the October election, however, either way it would be useful to have some precedent to work with. The recent Supreme Court case involving prisoner voting rights had provided a good precedent for Parliament to make changes to the legislation, Flavell said.

She was confident 16 year olds would exercise the right to vote if they were allowed.

"Countries that have currently lowered the voting age, including Austria and Scotland, have seen that 16 year olds actually voted more than those in their twenties when they were allowed to do so."

She agreed the climate change issue was a driver for younger teenagers becoming more involved in politics. As well, a lot of 16 year olds were in a more supportive environment whereas older teens were often in a "more chaotic" environment as they left school and started work.

Flavell supported civics education at school so young people could gain an understanding of how Parliament and government worked.

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