Sue Bradford has announced she plans to submit a bill which would lower the age of voting from 18 to 16.
Yes you can’t trust a 16 year old with the decision whether or not they can buy a pie from the school tuckshop, but you should give them the vote!
This is part of a global Green push, no doubt motivated by self interest that much much more of their voters comes from younger voters. Greens are pushing for this in Australia, Austria, Netherlands and the UK.
But that does not mean it is necessarily a bad idea, just because the Greens are pushing it for selfish reasons. Let’s first take a look at the situation around the world:
Of the 223 countries I can find data on, 192 have a voting age of 18. 21 countries have an age from 19 to 25 (Uzbekistan).A total of ten countries have a voting age of under 18 – five at 16 and five at 17. They are:
Austria (from 1 July 2007)
Isle of Man
Now of course in several of those countries, voting is more symbolic than actual. cough North Korea cough.
So very few countries have an age of under 18, and Austria is the only OECD country which does. But should NZ?
I personally am a huge advocate of young people getting involved in politics and voting. I think it is great when young people take an interest in politics. I certainly started following politics at eight years old.
But I do not think there is a good case to lower the voting age to 16. At 16 most people are in their 5th form at school. Only a small minority show much interest in politics. Most are concerned with passing their exams and pretending they have had sex.
Sure one can argue for 16. You can also argue for 12? Or even eight? I mean at eight years old I had a view on who to vote for. All age restrictions are somewhat arbitrary. So the issue is, which age has the better justification?
At 16 most of your rights are only partial and need parental consent. You can have sex, and can leave school and home.
At 18 you have finished the full 13 years of school. At 18 you are no longer deemed a child under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. You can not bet at the TAB until 18. You can’t marry without parental consent until 18. Generally you can’t get a benefit until you are 18. You can’t buy cigarettes or alcohol until 18. You can’t rent a flat in your own name until 18. You can’t even operate a credit card or cheque account in your own name.
If the law says one can’t do all that until 18, I can’t see a case for saying one gets to vote. I supported the drinking age being the same as the voting age. If you lower the voting age to 18, then you should lower the drinking age, tobacco purchase age, gambling age etc etc. Does Sue Bradford think 16 year olds should be able to go to Casinos?
The Young Nationals have said that the voting age should remain 18, noting:
At the age of 18 we are deemed to have ‘come of age’ – that is when we can purchase alcohol, smoke and get married without consent. By that age the vast majority of young people are independent and ready to make an informed decision.
In comparison, the majority of 16 and 17 year olds are still dependent on their parents and in full-time education. To allow young people to vote at such a young age risks many casting their vote on a whim.
In that respect any move to introduce civics education into the national curriculum statements has merit.
Mr Patterson says that the Young Nationals have faith in the youth of New Zealand, but that Ms Bradford’s proposal is a step too far; “at 16 young people should be left to enjoy the twilight years of their childhood”