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Why New Zealand might lower its voting age

16-year-olds in New Zealand may soon be able to vote, as the country’s highest court has ruled that the current voting age of 18 is discriminatory. The decision gives parliament the opportunity to discuss and consider lowering the lower limit of the voting age.

The case was first brought to court by an advocacy group called ‘Make It 16’ in 2020, who wanted the current voting system to include 16 and 17 year olds to allow them to vote on issues such as climate change which will ultimately affect the youth.

According to a report by Reutersthe Supreme Court said the current voting age of 18 contradicts the country’s own bill of rights that gives people the right to be free once they turn 16.

Caedan Tipler, the co-director of Make It 16 said: “It’s history. Government and parliament cannot ignore such a clear legal and moral message. They have to let us vote.

Countries like Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Scotland and others already allow voters under the age of 18 to exercise their right to vote.

Let’s take a closer look at the new development series.

The Make It 16 campaign

The petition, which was submitted on October 5, 2022, extended the lower limit of the voting age from 18 to 16 for local and general elections. The New Zealand Parliament website notes that as many as 7,467 people have signed the online petition in support of the proposal.

According to Make It 16, changing the voting age is necessary because 16-year-olds are “just as impacted by the decisions our government makes as people over the age of 18 and we will also inherit the future impacts of those decisions”.

The advocacy group also says 16 is a crucial age because most teenagers at this age are beginning to make big decisions and take on important responsibilities, giving them the credit needed to vote.

Decisions on issues such as climate change, housing costs, decent education and an ongoing mental health crisis have a direct effect on people under the age of 18 and as a result the group says young people must also have a say in these decisions.

“Voting is a fundamental right. Every voice deserves to be heard in a democracy. Voting involves bringing together everyone’s backgrounds, life experiences and opinions to create an accurate representation of the wants and needs of everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand. By extending the voting age to 16, we are enabling more voices to be heard, strengthening our democracy and helping the government craft better policies and changes that will benefit more people overall. says Make It 16.

The group also said that preventing 16- and 17-year-olds from voting is unjustified “age discrimination” under the Bill of Rights.

Sanat Singh, the co-founder of the group said The Guardian, “Three years ago we saw school climate strikes… and there was a sort of global shift towards how to give young people more voices and more means to make large-scale change? Voting was one of those ideas.

He added: ‘I was 16 in 2020 which was probably one of the most important elections of our lives – and the issues that mattered to me about mental health, climate change and the state of our democracy were things that I was not able to have a say in.

What did the Supreme Court say?

Calling the current voting age “discriminatory”, the ruling comes after the court observed that it was inconsistent with New Zealand’s Bill of Rights.

Apart from this, the Supreme Court also said, according to a report by Indian Expressthat the Attorney General was unable to prove the legality and reason why 18 was chosen as the voting age rather than 16.

The court said: “As Make It 16 says, Section 21 of the Human Rights Act clearly sets the age of 16 as the point at which actions may be discriminatory. New Zealand’s position in this respect differs from that of comparable jurisdictions. In Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, on the other hand, discrimination on the basis of age is prohibited, but the legislation does not define “age” by reference to a specific age.

“A declaration is made that the provisions of the Electoral Act 1993 and the Local Electoral Act 2001 which provide for a minimum voting age of 18 are inconsistent with the right set out in section 19 of the New New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990 to be free from age discrimination; these inconsistencies have not been justified under section 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act,” said added the decision.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said she personally supports the change. AFP

While four of the five judges supported Make It 16’s appeal, a fifth judge had issues with some aspects of the decision.

Now, the decision requires discussions in parliament, after which it would have to gain 75% majority approval in the House of Representatives to become formal law.

What does the Bill of Rights say about age discrimination?

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 extends the right to protection from discrimination on the grounds set out in the Human Rights Act 1993.

According to the law, “discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly or less favorably than another person in similar circumstances”.

According to the law, it is unlawful discrimination when a person is deliberately singled out because of their age.

Although the law does not provide criminal penalties for age discrimination, there are remedies available that are intended to be compensatory and remedial in nature.

Anyone who is discriminated against because of their age can file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Who supports and who opposes?

The decision found support from citizens and authorities, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said she was “personally in favor of lowering the age” to 16, but said it was up to the majority to decide its fate.

She said: ‘I personally support a lowering of the voting age, but it’s not just a matter for me or even for the government. Any modification of the electoral law of this nature requires 75% of the support of parliamentarians.

According The Roanoke Times, the Liberal Green Party also supported the change. The party’s election spokesperson, Golriz Ghahraman, said, “Young people deserve a say in decisions that affect them, now and in the future.

However, the two main conservative parties in the country do not support the change.

The country’s opposition leader, Christopher Luxon, said: “It’s not something we support. Ultimately, you have to draw the line somewhere, and we’re comfortable with the line being 18.

With contributions from agencies

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