Sixteen reasons for lowering the voting age
- Under 18’s make up almost one quarter of the population. Therefore, in our
“democracy” almost a quarter of the population have no real democratic powers.
- We are citizens and have to abide by the law like everyone else, even if
we haven’t consented (a good example being youth rates).
- According to the law, we are old enough to be charged with a capital offence at 10, a criminal offence at 14, and charged as an adult at 17. We can drive a car (or “death buggy”) at 15. We are legally allowed to haves sex and leave school at 16. Having the voting age at 18 creates huge double standards in the progressing of giving us adult responsibility.
- We have to pay tax, but have little say in how it’s spent.
- We have our own unique needs now, which will change as we get
older. We have our own perspectives and different experiences to contribute to the
wider debates. Young people are also the most idealistic portion of the
population; we are the least likely to want to go to war, and the most
angry when we do.
- We are the group that will have to live with most, the consequences of the decisions of those in power right now. Inaction on major issues such as global warming and child poverty is made far easier, as politicians do not have to answer to youth.
- Being unintelligent and uninformed is no reason to deny those over 18 the vote, and yet it is a primary reason for indiscriminately denying everyone under 18 the vote. This is a hugely unjust distinction, and logically and scientifically flawed. In 1986, the New Zealand Royal Commission on the Electoral System found no reason why those under 18 should not be able to vote, with evidence that children at the age of about 14 are capable of making decisions about social issues.
- Having a voting age means that the opinions of those under the age are disregarded, as it tells us that we are too young to be able to make decisions about issues. This fosters the current culture of disillusionment amongst youth – over half of young people in a recent survey said they did not take an interest in politics, because they said it was too complicated, it didn’t affect them or there wasn’t much point. This also creates a culture where young peoples’ views are ignored. As a result, the many other democratic facets that we can participate in are worth a lot less.
- MPs and city counsellors can easily choose to ignore us, because we have no votes and therefore no power. MMP especially is built on MPs representing constituencies. But under 18’s are not a constituency, therefore no one represents us in parliament.
- After being discouraged from participating our whole lives, and having MPs and city counsellors ignore us, it’s no wonder that many people don’t vote when they finally can. Why vote suddenly when your whole life you’ve been told you’re either too young to care, not smart enough to care or a combination of the two? This is why under 25’s currently have the lowest percentage of voter enrolment.
- Introducing voting at school means that everyone is together, and so the whole generation can be educated about the democratic process and its importance. It also means that voter enrolment can easily be done at schools too.
- Having the voting age at 18 means that people can vote for the first time at between 18 and 21: an undeniably hectic and eventful stage in one’s life. It’s when you leave school, look for a job, try and move out of the house, start going to university, have your OE… If we could vote for the first time when we were secure and well grounded at high school, or at home, we would be in a much better position to start looking at the wide issues, and to care about the world around us.
- If people voted for the first time at school and at home, then debates and discussions at schools and in homes would flourish – creating a far better equipped population. We would care more, be more informed and be encouraged to us our critical thinking (a major tenet of the curriculum in New Zealand schools).
- Getting us into the habit of voting at a young age would set us up for a life of participation.
- Empowering young people and involving us in the issues would go a long way towards making us into good citizens. Participation allows engagement and creates awareness of issues (this goes both ways). This gives us ownership and responsibility – which puts the impetus on caring about the world around.
- There is no such thing as a right or wrong vote.
The Young Greens would like to see the voting age for everything, at a community, local body and national level, be immediately lowered to 16.
This would combine with civics education in every high school about the voting process, among other things (see Green Party Education Policy ).
But who’s to say we need a voting age at all? If there was no voting age, then we could vote when we were ready. Our democracy would be working for the people, which is how it should be.