© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WEDH · WEDN · WEDW · WEDY · WNPR
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Zealand lawmakers will vote on whether to lower the national voting age to 16

A vote is cast in Tauranga, New Zealand, during a by-election on April 27, 2018.
Andrew Warner
/
AP
A vote is cast in Tauranga, New Zealand, during a by-election on April 27, 2018.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand lawmakers will take a vote on whether to lower the national voting age from 18 to 16, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.

Her announcement came hours after the country's Supreme Court ruled that not allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote amounted to age discrimination.

But while Ardern said she personally favors lowering the age, such a change would require a 75% supermajority of lawmakers to agree. And even proponents acknowledge they don't currently have the numbers.

A number of countries are debating whether to lower their voting age. Some that allow people to vote at 16 include Austria, Malta, Brazil, Cuba and Ecuador.

Sanat Singh, co-director of New Zealand's Make It 16 campaign, said he was absolutely thrilled with the court's decision.

"It's a huge day," he said. "This is historic not only for our campaign, but for the country."

Singh, 18, said existential issues like climate change — as well as issues like pandemic recovery and the state of democracy — will most affect young people.

"That's why I think it's really important to get all hands on deck to make sure we can have a stronger future," he said.

Ardern, who leads the liberal Labour Party, said all lawmakers should have a say on the issue.

"I personally support a decrease in the voting age but it is not a matter simply for me or even the government," Ardern said. "Any change in electoral law of this nature requires 75% of parliamentarians' support."

Ardern said the vote would likely take place within the coming months but any change would not take effect until after next year's general election.

The liberal Green Party said it supported a change.

"Young people deserve to have a say in the decisions that affect them, both now and in the future," said Golriz Ghahraman, the party's electoral reform spokesperson.

But New Zealand's two main conservative opposition parties said they oppose a change.

"It's not something we support," Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon told reporters. "Ultimately, you've got to draw the line somewhere, and we're comfortable with the line being 18."

At the Supreme Court, four judges found in favor of the lobby group's appeal with a fifth judge dissenting to some aspects of the decision.

In New Zealand, the protection against age discrimination begins at 16, and the judges ruled that the attorney-general had failed to show why 18 had been chosen as the age to vote rather than 16.

The nature of the court's ruling compelled New Zealand lawmakers to at least debate the issue, but it didn't compel them to take a vote or to make a change.

Singh said he's hopeful that while his group may not yet have the 75% support it needs in Parliament, it will get there within the next few years. He said a possible first step would be to get the voting age lowered to 16 for local council elections, as that change requires only a regular majority of lawmakers.

New Zealand's voting age was previously lowered from 21 to 20 in 1969, and then to 18 in 1974.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content