Let qualified under 18s vote?

November 16th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy:

On this election day, as on most others, we will hear a lot about the need to increase turnout and the dangers of voter suppression. But few will even consider questioning the systematic exclusion of a huge part of our population from the franchise: children under the age of 18. We allow even the most ignorant and irresponsible adults to vote, but exclude even the most knowledgeable and insightful children. And to add insult to injury, we saddle them with a mediocre education system and trillions of dollars in public debt that they will someday have to repay.

I’m not in favour of change the general age of voting below 18.

The main objection to giving children the vote is that they lack the knowledge to make informed choices. Of course the same is true of most of the adult electorate, who are rationally ignorant about politics and public policy, and often don’t know even very basic facts. Nonetheless, it’s probably true that the average child knows a lot less about politics than the average adult, and that may be a good reason to deny most children the franchise. But why deny it to all of them? If a minor can pass a test of basic political knowledge (say, the political knowledge equivalent of the citizenship test administered to immigrants seeking naturalization), why shouldn’t he or she have the right to vote? Such a precocious child-voter would probably be more knowledgeable than the majority of the adult population. Giving her the right to vote would actually increase the average knowledge level of the electorate and thereby slightly improve the quality of political decision-making. I’ve met twelve-year-olds with far higher levels of political knowledge than that of the average adult. You probably have too.

I think there is some merit to this argument. Don’t lower the , but allow under 18s to prove they are knowledgeable enough to vote if they wish to.

Finally, it’s worth noting the commonality this post and my last one, in which I urged adult voters to consider not voting on issues they know little or nothing about. Knowledge, not age, should be the main qualification for exercising political power at the ballot box. We may understandably shy away from giving government the power to use knowledge tests to narrow the franchise. But it’s much tougher to argue against using them to expand it.

It would be nice if only the non-ignorant voted, on a voluntary basis.

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31 Responses to “Let qualified under 18s vote?”

  1. Sonny Blount (1,845 comments) says:

    If we want a decent democracy we should raise the voting age to 21.

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  2. Redbaiter (7,619 comments) says:

    If there is any reform needed in who gets to vote it should be targeted at removing the vote from those who do not pay tax.

    Otherwise we have the same folly that is white anting the economic well being of the US, where such a large proportion of the voters pay no tax that they happily vote for more perceived “handouts” from government as it doesn’t cost them a thing.

    Only net taxpayers should get the vote.

    Stuff about age is just an unnecessary distraction right now. There is a much larger problem, and that is the perversion of the voting process and the possible destruction of democracy that arises from having a large number of voters who do not pay any tax, real or otherwise.

    If there is any care for the democratic process then voters have to be stopped from electing politicians who will rob Paul to share the proceeds with Peter, for the net result of this amoral folly is the eventual non-availability of Pauls and the collapse of the economy.

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  3. Graeme Edgeler (3,267 comments) says:

    It would be nice if only the non-ignorant voted, on a voluntary basis.

    The question is that the Securities Act Amendment Act be read a first time. Those who are of that opinion will say “aye”, the contrary “no”. They ayes have it. A party vote is called for? The Clerk will please conduct a party vote.

    They ‘ayes’ are one, the ‘noes’ are one. The vote being tied, the bill will not be read a first time.

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  4. peterwn (3,160 comments) says:

    If particular under-18′s were to be given the vote, who would decide if they were politically literate? Would attendance at six Young Nat or Young Labour functions suffice? Could they get a certificate from their teachers (budding young nats need not apply). We could have the same problem as with the literacy tests used in USA Deep South. Whites got easy questions, non-whites stinkers. Questions asked in KZ could be so pinko oriented that any self respecting centre-right kid would throw up when answering them.

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  5. RRM (9,453 comments) says:

    Don’t lower the voting age, but allow under 18s to prove they are knowledgeable enough to vote if they wish to.

    Respectfully I could not disagree more, DPF.

    The more political forums and fan-boy comments I read, the more grateful I am that the majority of the electorate are “politically ignorant” people!

    Any pre-qualification test you tried to implement would merely filter out a lot of ordinary sensible people from the real world. While the sort of lunatics who hang out at The Standard, and know all the MPs’ names and most of the buzz-words of the day, would probably all pass with flying colours. Is that the sort of democracy we want? :roll:

    Was it Churchill who said democracy is a terrible system of government, but all the other systems are even worse?

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  6. Bill (19 comments) says:

    The voting paper should be difficult to fill in correctly, to filter out the idiots.

    Also only “real” taxpayers should be allowed to vote.

    The rest of us are just bludgers, Public Servants, pensioners, beneficiaries, etc don’t pay “real” tax.

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  7. Kleva Kiwi (281 comments) says:

    “Sonny Blount (1,634) Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 4:03 pm
    If we want a decent democracy we should raise the voting age to 21.”

    If you want a decent democracy that actually works, then you should have to take an exam to qualify to vote (open to any age).

    Why stop there. Politicians should have appropriate qualifications/experience to hold a given portfolio. You don’t see many companies hiring the most popular guy to do a job…. You wouldn’t hire a gardener to do a surgeons job either would you.

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  8. MT_Tinman (2,990 comments) says:

    Don’t lower the voting age, but allow under 18s to prove they are knowledgeable enough to vote if they wish to.

    No! No! and thrice No!

    Half the electorate don’t have the ability to understand how their vote undermines their country now. In no way should this percentage be increased.

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  9. Viking2 (11,129 comments) says:

    Old saying about teenagers; God takes their brains away at 13 and gives them back at 23. Nigel Later makes the point that teenagers are not right in the head.

    and you socialist fruitcakes want to give them a vote.

    Mad as hatters the lot of you.
    Confirms that you haven’t got your brains back from God.

    It would be nice if only the non-ignorant voted, on a voluntary basis.
    and who Pray tell me determines the ignorant from the non-ignorant. Jesus or the Pope or will it be some mad hatter socialist

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  10. Azreal (15 comments) says:

    I agree with “Bill (16)” The voting forms should be more complicated. We insist on buildings, roads, cars etc being designed by people with a few clues, but hand over control of our lives to voters, many of whom have the reasoning capability of the average clump of dirt.

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  11. Peter (1,578 comments) says:

    Extend that qualification to the entire voting population. If you can’t answer basic questions on policy and the political system, you should not be voting at all.

    LabManaNZFirstGreen vote would collapse.

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  12. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    The voting age:

    1.You need to be 45 years old
    2.Have worked for at least 20 years.
    3.Prove that you own two or more pairs of shoes
    4. Never go to the supermarket in your pyjama’s.

    I am aware that rule four willl disqualify numerous labour voters but tough shit.

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  13. David Garrett (6,422 comments) says:

    I also am in favour of raising the voting age…25 is probably a fair balance….you will always get the idiots like Ure and Mr Hansen who still believe in fairies and the money tree at 60, but it is a democracy after all…

    A “political literacy test” sound good at first blush…but for all the reasons listed above and others, it would never work…or it wouldn’t work how PLU would wish it!

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  14. Shunda barunda (2,965 comments) says:

    This is a fantastic opportunity for the left to further exploit the most vulnerable in society, hell, why stop at 16, lets register 2 year old infants as well!!

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  15. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    shouldn’t the voting age be the same as the age of criminal responsibility?

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  16. thor42 (916 comments) says:

    I agree with Redbaiter. Give the vote only to net taxpayers.
    “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

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  17. mikenmild (10,720 comments) says:

    Bring back the country quota? No, let’s go to one farm; one vote.
    A voting age has the advantage of being the easiest restriction to apply. Any test would be skewed in favour of the likely supporters of those who get to set the test. A parliament elected by ‘net taxpayers’ would quickly pass laws that refine the definition of net taxpayers – excluding spouses who earn no individual wage would be just the start.
    Personally, I think we should make it a height restriction, like that imposed on theme park rides for safety reasons. The selected height, of course, would be just above Redbaiter’s angry 5’6″

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  18. Rex Widerstrom (5,261 comments) says:

    Yep, what Peter said. Drop the age barrier entirely, but have a basic civics test that has to be passed. Could be a multi-choice test. To appeal to the Labour / Greens vote, it could be in the form of a scratch card.

    Okay, I’m kidding about the second bit, but not the first. You vote because you care about the future of our country (at least that’s why you should vote) so surely it’s not too much to ask that you know a few basic facts about that country before you help decide its future and that of all your fellow citizens.

    I find voting qualification to be a very random set of rules. I’d wager I know more about Australian politics than most Australians (certainly the ones I know) but, despite paying taxes here, don’t get to vote because I’m a NZ citizen, yet because I don’t get back to NZ enough I can’t vote there either.

    Perhaps I should write to Aunty Hulun at the UN and complain of being a stateless person. There must be grant or two in that, surely?

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  19. the conservative (58 comments) says:

    Oh, please! New Zealand is a basket case as it is; we don’t need any more younger voters. Of course liberals would welcome this as this is their target market, but democracy requires informed voters and not just children voting on emotion. If it were up to me I would require a political awareness test before anybody could vote. We have just witnessed the debacle in America.

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  20. Redbaiter (7,619 comments) says:

    The left can get it done.

    First they mount a propaganda campaign called “voting equality”.

    Then they put out dodgy poll numbers based on leading questions designed to bolster support for the pro case.

    Then Farrar and Whale will put up numerous posts designed to keep the subject in the public eye. All the while emphasizing the message “vote equality”.

    Then parliamentarians will all give stirring principled speeches on how they’re always for “equality”.

    Then at least half of the National Party will vote with Labour.

    Bill passes. Job done.

    All we have to do is await with apprehension the next load of fucking commie bullshit to be pushed under the false propaganda based label of “equality”.

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  21. Redbaiter (7,619 comments) says:

    Is the edit function working or not?

    Edit: Cleared the cache and now its working.

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  22. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    The edits on go slow

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  23. David Garrett (6,422 comments) says:

    Red: How was the swim? These rants of yours have actually undergone editing?

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  24. mikenmild (10,720 comments) says:

    Edit slow is function when shit writing am.

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  25. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    I’d like to see at least seven years of politics and constitution introduced as a school subject before the voting age were dropped.

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  26. David Garrett (6,422 comments) says:

    “Was dropped…”

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  27. Graeme Edgeler (3,267 comments) says:

    “Was dropped…”

    “… *is* dropped.”

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  28. mikenmild (10,720 comments) says:

    Lee C – the years of social studies in the present curriculum are useless because?

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  29. Fentex (867 comments) says:

    This idea mistakes the purpose of elections. We do not have elections to choose the best government. We have elections to choose to whom we give authority to govern.

    One imagines we each choose who we think will govern best when voting, which seems the smart thing to do with our vote. But that isn’t the reason we vote.

    Elections are about the principle that governments are accountable to the electorate and may govern only with the consent of the governed.

    Whether any government is competent, effective and/or governs well or not is another matter.

    As such whether or not any group of people should be able to vote or not has nothing to do with anyone’s opinion of how wisely they’ll choose – it’s about whether or not they are a group who’s permission to govern should be required.

    Which is why arguments along the lines that people of an age to be commanded into war ought have a say in who’s governing make considerable sense.

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  30. Crusader (279 comments) says:

    ^^ What Fentex said.

    Also, if one’s concern is that the “best” government be elected, there are other matters to consider.

    A single chamber parliament leaves us open to over-zealaous idealogues of all persuasions. Checks and balances within the system are the best guard against these, and we could do with more.

    And, binding referenda should be held more frequently on topics of significance to the nation or constitution (but not on how the budget is divided up). In this electronic age if we cannot organise these cheaply and easily there is something amiss.

    Ideally we want a system of government where it does not matter who wins the election, life will continue pretty much unchanged for the productive sectors, and the market is not spooked by any fringe party since we all would know there is no chance their wild ideas would get traction. Some would say with the Reserve Bank act and the Fiscal Responsibility act we are reasonably well covered there, but let’s keep examining the system and keep thinking how we can keep it as stable as possible, no matter how turbulent the times might become in the future.

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  31. BigFish (132 comments) says:

    Find it silly nonsense to see the sheer number of elderly people willing to punish the young without question or trial.
    Broad, sweeping statements are made about their intellect, their work ethic, their employment status, their pay, their drinking, their sex lives, their politics, their driving, their boisterousness, their choices in education, their access to education, their contribution to society, and their patriotism when they decide such bullying is not for them and they leave for greener pastures.
    While so many elders choose to discriminate against youth, it seems only fair they should be able to vote so they might have some say over their own destiny.
    Populist policies that harm younger adults to appease older bullies are not without consequence. Intergenerational punishment goes both ways. Who’s to say the youth of today won’t seek to slash pensions and health care for older citizens once they hold the balance of power in return for such treatment?

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