A campaign to lower the voting age to 16 has failed to win over a judge in a preliminary legal argument seeking to advance the cause.
The campaign had wanted a High Court judge to declare that the current minimum voting age of 18 discriminated on the basis of age.
Any decision to lower the minimum voting age would be for Parliament to make but a judge’s declaration would have helped clarify the law.
In a decision issued from the High Court in Wellington on Wednesday, Justice Jan-Marie Doogue said restricting voting to people aged 18 was a justified limit on the right not to be subject to age discrimination.
This is not a huge surprise.
The Judge noted:
It is also worth noting that for the purposes of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child a “child” is defined as “every human being below the age of eighteen years.”
In summary, I consider it is reasonable for a democratic society to grant voting rights to adults and not children, and to draw a line between adults and children at the age of 18.
Pretty basic principle – children don’t get the vote, adults do.
Age may be an imperfect proxy for maturity or competence; there will always be precocious children above, and incompetent adults below, the line wherever it is drawn. But a bright line is reasonable when establishing eligibility at the population level.
I’d be happy to go for a competency based eligibility for voting, rather than age. I have a long list of people who clearly should not qualify 🙂