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Make It 16 Launches Petition Calling On The New Government To Keep The Voting Age Bill Alive

Make It 16 has just launched its “Don’t Kill the Bill” petition, calling on the new National-Led Government not to drop the Electoral (Lowering Voting Age for Local Elections and Polls) Amendment Bill, which would lower the voting age for local elections to 16. The Bill was introduced late in the last term following the Supreme Court’s declaration that the voting age of 18 was age discrimination that the Government had failed to justify, the Review into the Future of Local Government’s recommendation to implement the change, and years of campaigning from young people around the country. The soon-to-be-constituted Justice Select Committee has recently closed public submissions on the Bill.

“The message from young people is clear: the new Government must continue and pass the Bill to lower the voting age for local elections” says Make It 16 Co-Director Thomas Brocherie (he/him).

“We are launching this petition because democracy should not be a partisan issue, and the fundamental right of young people to vote should not hang on the result of an election we were barred from participating in.

“We call on members of the new Government to recognise our human rights, the recommendation of the expert Review into the Future of Local Government, and the calls of the Christchurch, Wellington, Kapiti, Dunedin, Porirua, Hutt, and Selwyn Councils and lower the voting age for local elections to 16.

“We have heard sometimes that it is for Parliament, rather than the Courts, to decide the voting age. While the Supreme Court’s declaration carries a significant legal and moral weight, that is true as far as it goes. But Parliament must decide, and we are calling on the Government to make sure that can happen.

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“The Government needs a bloody good reason to breach our rights, but there just isn’t one. In fact, lowering the voting has been proven overseas to improve voter turnout, meaning it can turn around New Zealand’s woeful 40% turnout in local elections. The best option is therefore just to let us vote in local elections.”

Notes

The Bill itself can be found here: https://bills.parliament.nz/v/6/0aba4b2e-edc6-4a27-c01a-08db9d132713?Tab=history

The Review into the Future of Local Government’s final report can be found here: https://www.futureforlocalgovernment.govt.nz/assets/future-for-local-government-final-report.pdf

Turnout figures for the 2022 local elections are summarised here: https://www.votelocal.co.nz/final-voter-turnout-results/

Dunedin City Council endorsed lowering the voting age in its submission to the Review into the Future of Local Government. Christchurch City Council has supported lowering the voting age to 16 since early 2020 when it submitted in support of the change to Justice Select Committee’s review into the 2019 local elections (which it repeated in the review of the 2022 local elections). Wellington City Council has advocating for lowering the voting age to 16 in its Children and Young People Strategy from 2021. Hutt City, Porirua City, and Kapiti Coast District Councils all passed resolutions in December last year supporting lowering the voting age to 16. Selwyn District Council told the Review into the Future of Local Government that “Lowering the voting age to 16 gives life to intergenerational decision-making.”

Dr Jan Eichhorn and Dr Christine Hübner did research on the impact of lowering the voting age on voter turnout in Scotland and found that not only do 16/17 year-olds turnout at higher rates, but also people who vote for the first time at 16/17 are more likely to vote later in life https://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/votes-at-16-in-scotland-study

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