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Chauvel: Lowering voting age needs consideration

Chauvel supports proper consideration of lowering voting age

27 June 2007

“Engaging New Zealand’s citizens in the political process at a younger age has real potential to strengthen our representative democracy” says Labour List MP resident in Wellington, Charles Chauvel.

“I support a proper consideration of the private member’s bill put forward by Green MP Sue Bradford, which would lower the voting age to sixteen and make civics education compulsory.

“Each time our franchise has been extended, there has inevitably been debate, and this is a critical part of our democratic process that I support. However, I strongly oppose those who mis-characterise the results of this bill. Some of its opponents seem to forget that while voter registration is compulsory, voting is not.

“I hardly believe that this bill will unleash the hordes of ‘incapable’ voters its opponents claim it will. Newly-eligible voters under it will be able to choose to exercise their vote, or not, just like any other voter. And besides, we trust sixteen-year-olds with a host of other decisions relevant to themselves and others, so why not give careful thought to the democratic right of voting?

“Publicity around this bill has restarted the youth-bashing band-wagon, with newspaper editorials across the country decrying the possibility of ‘boy-racers’ and ‘out-of-control’ teens hijacking the political process. This is, as usual, an indictment of the many based on the actions of a few and an unfortunately familiar vote of no-confidence in our youth.

“I prefer to take an optimistic view, that by educating and enfranchising people at an earlier age, we may well be able to reverse the alarming trend of decreasing young voter turnout and encourage those affected by political decisions to have a voice in making them. I believe this bill could well accomplish these outcomes.

“Accordingly, when the matter is considered by the Labour Caucus, I intend to speak in favour of sending the bill to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee for a proper and thorough consideration of the issues which it raises.”


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