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Lowering Voting Age To 16 'Not A Matter Of If, But When'

02 June 2024

Jessica Hopkins, Auckland reporter

A youth advocate is not giving up on their campaign to lower the voting age, despite the government ruling it out.

Auckland student Caeden Tipler, of the campaign Make It 16, was at a summit on lowering the voting age in Ottawa, Canada this week.

The #Vote16 Canada summit was attended by 200 experts, politicians and young people from across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

Tipler, 18, said it was inspiring to connect with others who wanted to expand voting rights to 16- and-17-year-olds.

Senator Marilou McPhedran formally introduced Tipler and Make it 16 co-president Sage Garrett to Canada's parliament, calling them national leaders of a growing "long-game" movement.

It comes as Canadian lawmakers are set to decide on a bill, introduced by McPhedran, that if passed would make Canada's voting age sixteen.

Tipler said the advocacy group Vote 16 Canada reached out to Make It 16 about a global summit after they challenged the voting age at the New Zealand Supreme Court in 2022. The court ruled preventing 16-and-17-year-olds from voting was unjustified age discrimination, inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

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A group of young Canadians, aged 12 to 18, have also filed an application at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to challenge the voting age in Canada.

Tipler said their Canadian peers had looked to Make It 16 to shape their own court case, which is separate from McPhedran's bill.

In New Zealand, the government has said the voting age will remain at 18, shutting down the Make It 16 Bill from proceeding to parliament.

But Tipler said New Zealand should follow countries like Scotland and Brazil, which have a voting age of 16 for their countries' elections.

They cited UK Labour leader Keir Starmer's election promise to lower the voting age as a sign that was where Aotearoa's Commonwealth partners were headed.

"We pride ourselves on being the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. But we are no longer paving the way like we were in 1893. At this point, we are playing catch-up."

Tipler said Labour, the Green Party, and Te Pāti Māori had also showed support for their campaign.

"We are absolutely not giving up. This government could change its mind when they see the support the campaign has, or we will wait to vote in a new government.

"We have always said it is not a matter of if, but when."

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