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Maxim Insitute Rejects Calls To Lower Voting Age

Maxim Institute respectfully disagrees with He Arotake Potitanga Motuhake – Independent Electoral Review’s interim report insofar as it advocates for lowering the minimum voting age from 18 to 16 years.

There are indeed many decisions made by Parliament that affect those younger than 18 (and younger than 16, for that matter). But to keep the voting age at 18 does not mean that the political interests of 16- and 17-year-olds will be ignored. Unlike other subgroups of adults who may require voting rights to protect their own interests (for example, labourers, the unpropertied, and racial minorities), young people generally have the protection and help of their parents. When voting, the interests of their children will often be a major factor in parents' voting.

The appropriateness of 18 as a minimum voting age is also internationally recognised: 18 is the most common minimum voting age by far. Only about a dozen countries worldwide have a minimum voting age of younger than 18.

Although the minimum voting age will always be an arbitrary dividing line between those deemed old enough and competent to vote and those considered too young, the dividing line is more justifiable at 18 than at 16. At 18, the brain has not finished developing, but it is more developed than at 16, as is our decision-making capability.

Adolescents generally are less emotionally and mentally developed the younger they are. They focus more on immediate benefits than the future costs of behaviours, partly because a consequence five years in the future is far more remote in relation to how long they have been alive.

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If the minimum voting age were reduced to 16, we would include a new segment of voters in our electorate who will collectively not possess the same physiological development required to independently and effectively make informed choices in the voting booth. Furthermore, they have not accumulated comparable life experiences or educational backgrounds that aid older individuals in assessing which policies ought to be adopted and which politicians deserve their trust.

Keeping the minimum voting age at 18 continues to preserve voting for those who have generally finished secondary education, who are entering the experiences of adult life (university or the workforce) and who are better able to make considered political choices about who is best able to serve their interests.

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