Should the voting age be lowered to 16?

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft has called on politicians to lead a nationwide discussion on lowering the voting age to 16.

Stuff:  Children’s Commissioner calls for discussion on lowering voting age to 16

Judge Andrew Becroft mooted the proposal at Parliament on Wednesday, when he appeared in front of the MPs on the Social Services Select Committee and said those teens would be “up for the responsibility”.

“I’m calling for a genuine discussion,” he said.

“All that I have seen about our democratic system, shows that those that are least involved and invested in it are our young. The lowest voting turnout is the 18-29 age group, we’ve got to do better.

I don’t know what effect lowering the voting age would have on the poor turnout of the 18-20 age group. Perhaps young people generally aren’t very interested in voting.

“I think provided it went hand-in-hand at good civics education, with a commitment to teach about the operation of Government, how kids can be involved, what voting means, everything I’ve seen indicates that 16 and 17-year-olds will be up for that responsibility.”

I presume that the civics education would be via schools – could teachers be relied on to teach children about politics impartially?

Becroft said a discussion was the best place to start.

“Something like [voting], which is fundamental to our way of doing, I’d rather it was done by a serious national discussion that was begun by MPs, community groups and school principals, and it would give everybody a chance to involve themselves.

“And of course there are disadvantages – 16 and 17-year-olds are still developing, there is much for them to learn. But they’re equally capable of expressing views and thinking about our future in encouraging and quite sophisticated ways.”

Becroft said children under 18 made up 23 per cent of New Zealand’s population however, but had no other way of influencing policy.

He isn’t proposing that that whole 23% of the population had the vote, just 3% of it.

“If they voted and had a lobby, I’m quite convinced that our policy for under 18-year-olds would significantly improve.

New Zealand led the world in how it cared for its aged population, with a universal superannuation scheme that was not means tested. However depravation rates between those under 18 and those over 65 were one of the worst in the world, according to OECD statistics.

“Some of that is because the elderly are deserving of our support and should be prioritised, but they have a vote and an influence as well.

“Children don’t have that. If 16 and 17-year-olds voted, you can guarantee there’d be a change.”

Yes, but what sort of a change?

Perhaps school children could lobby on improving schools and education – would teachers lobby against that?

I have no view on whether the voting age should be lowered to 16, or to 14, or at all, but having a discussion on it won’t do any harm.

Perhaps 16-18 year olds should be asked whether they want to be able to vote or not – they could vote on it.

39 Comments

  1. Missy

     /  March 2, 2018

    It is interesting that this is popping up in NZ, it has been something very prominent in politics in the UK over the last few months led by the Electoral Reform society, headed by Darren Hughes (coincidence?).

    There was a mental health expert on the radio this morning discussing the increase in teenagers with mental health issues, and self harming, and though the discussion had nothing to do with lowering the voting age, he did inadvertently put forward the best argument against votes at 16.

    When asked about the increase in the numbers of young people with mental health issues, he said that a lot of it is down to the life they lead. His response was that teenagers are expected to take on more adult responsibilities earlier and earlier in their life, and have little or no transition period from childhood to adult hood, and very little support these days. He cited things like having to make important decisions about their future early in their secondary schooling, and having to be more independent and being left alone a bit more at school once they leave primary school. Basically he said they are no longer allowed to be children, but rather teenagers are treated as – and expected to act like – adults from an earlier age, and this causes stress and manifests as mental health issues.

    If these teenagers can’t cope with day to day life at school, and if mental health in teenagers is increasing because they are expected to become adult earlier, then surely we should not add to it by lowering the voting age.

    • Missy

       /  March 2, 2018

      oops, should be a ? at the end there, now a full stop.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 2, 2018

        They start work much later than people did not very long ago; my late neighbour began work at 14 and her father or father-in-law at 11 in a mine in Wales.

  2. Gezza

     /  March 2, 2018

    Silly idea. Teenagers are too busy with their gonads.

  3. Corky

     /  March 2, 2018

    No.

  4. Geoffrey Monks

     /  March 2, 2018

    We have a special word to describe young people during the time that their brains are underdeveloped to the degree that they need frequent guidance to ensure that they conform to the norms of our society: it is “children”. Enfranchising children with no parental or sociatel guidance is such a daft idea that one wonders if the Childrens’ Commissioner has any meaningful work to do. Semi-Enfranchising children to the extent that they could vote under guidance is equally fraught. Could anyone be the guide? When must such guidance cease?

  5. Ray

     /  March 2, 2018

    It is a bit of a problem, on one hand we have the Children’s Commissioner calling for special treatment of youth in the Courts because they are young with brains that can’t formed yet but now he wants these same youth to have the vote!

    • Gezza

       /  March 2, 2018

      Yeah I think we just put this one in the stupid idea pile, add some petrol, & chuck a lighted match on it.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 2, 2018

        Not all teenagers end up in court, of course, so that argument is flawed.

        • Corky

           /  March 2, 2018

          Sorry, but I must down tick you. You have accused me previously of downing ticking. So I must live up to my reputation. Please accept this as part of lifes rich tapestry.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  March 2, 2018

            In your case, as part of a ragged dishcloth rather than a rich tapestry. You are not sorry, or you wouldn’t do it.

            • Corky

               /  March 2, 2018

              Correct. I’m reflecting the inanity of some of your responses to my posts. It wastes space, and as you can see from above, ruins otherwise good threads.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 2, 2018

              The only inanity is yours as you childishly try to score points and fail every time.

              You never did say how many countries you have been in and how many languages you know.

            • Gezza

               /  March 2, 2018

              Very puzzling. I can’t recall anyone accusing him of downing ticking. And if he was downing ticking, why would he then downtick (or uptick)?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 2, 2018

              Because he’s Corky and will probably now deny that that’s what he said. What a meshuggeneh.

              Isn’t he a conceited bore ? He must be hell to live with, always trying to sound clever and put words in people’s mouths.

            • Gezza

               /  March 2, 2018

              I make allowances in case he was dropped on his head as a baby. It happens. And it’s not the sort of thing your parents tell you. Must admit, you two are among my favourite posters. It’s like watching Saturday Night Live sometimes.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 2, 2018

              Oh, spare me. It’s insulting to even put our names together.

              He’s as subtle as a buffalo blowing and thumping around a paddock and thinking that it’s dancing.

              He is like the grinning child with blubbery lips who sits at the back of the classroom trying to score off the teacher and thinking that he has succeeded. He contradicts for the sake of contradicting, without looking it up to see if he’s right or not – and he usually isn’t. He repeats words and phrases over and over in the hope of a reaction.

              He’s a bore, a boar and a boor.

            • Corky

               /  March 2, 2018

              I seem to be wasting my time.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 2, 2018

              I hope that you mean that you are wasting your time trying to look as if you are cleverer and know more than I do, when it is so obvious that you do not.

  6. Speaking on behalf of the group I was a member of at 16.
    We were in training to become members of the military or had passed out into the Service.
    Supposedly we were able to go to war, why weren’t we permitted to drink in a pub or vote in elections ?

    • Gezza

       /  March 2, 2018

      Too easily led.

    • Conspiratoor

       /  March 2, 2018

      Why? Because the ability to reason is the last brain function to develop fully. Around 24 years for most people …for some however it never materialises

      • Gezza

         /  March 2, 2018

        It was 25 for me. God. What a revelation.

  7. artcroft

     /  March 2, 2018

    Judge Bewildered is obviously out of ideas and resorts to advocating nonsense. Sad.

  8. Geoffrey Monks

     /  March 2, 2018

    Setting aside the red herring of drinking……
    The sad fact that young, childless and unwed young men can be sent off into battle does not make them competent to vote: it just means that they can be exploited.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  March 2, 2018

      Sexist, isn’t it ? Men can be forced as cannon fodder into something like WWI. women can’t.

  9. NOEL

     /  March 2, 2018

    “The National Government, with Opposition support, did reduce the voting age to 20 in 1969.The reasoning for the Government’s cautious lowering of the voting age by one year
    was the higher level of education, the earlier maturity of youth and the arbitrary nature of fixing the age at 21. Others referred to closing the ‘generation gap’ and the idealism, vision and energy of youth.”

    Later it was lowered to 18. Not sure if higher education and early maturity were factors.

    If the only driver is that there would be 23 percent more eligible voters it’s not necessary.
    Against the hype he “youthquake” never happened in the last election
    .

  10. Zedd

     /  March 2, 2018

    The focus needs to be; Why so many 18-24 year dont seem interested, enough to bother.. APATHY ?

    btw; methinks the reason many ‘naysayers’ dont want it lowered to 16.. many are concerned about the environment & likely, would vote GREEN !? 🙂

    • sorethumb

       /  March 2, 2018

      Greens aren’t about the environment they are for anything extreme.

      • phantom snowflake

         /  March 2, 2018

        The (sad) truth about the Green Party is that in recent years they have drifted towards the centre. Nowadays they are mostly a bland party of neoliberal-lite urban cafe dwellers, with only a light dusting of activists. Radical?? James Shaw anyone? Haha. That they appear “extreme” to you illustrates just how far out on the lunatic fringe you are.

  11. Kabull

     /  March 2, 2018

    If the voting age were to be lowered to 16, would the age for military deployment also be lowered? The two go hand in hand – there has always been a cry ‘if you are old enough to vote you are old enough to serve …’ How would that sit with the UN rules on children in conflict?

  12. Geoffrey Monks

     /  March 2, 2018

    It is no accident that wars are fought by young men (and to a lesser degree, young women). They are old enough to have developed the physical strength required and yet young enough to still think they are immortal. Children and the elderly are best used when all else has failed and the enemy is at the door.

    • sorethumb

       /  March 2, 2018

      We live in the age of Gramsci where revolution comes by tunnelling through the institutions. The Greens are very much a part of that.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 2, 2018

        How many women were at the front as soldiers in WWI ? How many of the names on the Memorials are women’s names ? I have a feeling that the women’s names are a single figure.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 2, 2018

          One died as a result of enemy action and one of TB over there..

          Ten were drowned when theit ship sank on the way to the war.

          I wasn’t too far out.

  13. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 2, 2018

    What an appallingly badly thought out advocacy by Judge Becroft. I hate to think what disasters he has been responsible for from the bench.

  14. I think a main concern is that people under 18 are still under the influence of their parents so households with lots of children have more voting power (the parents might influence the kid’s ballot or might just fill it out for them and have extra votes for themselves). But at the same time kids aren’t even able to have a say in measures that would effect their education (I just talked about this in a post today where there was a ballot measure to ban computers from libraries because older people were concerned kids would use it for porn or something that could easily be blocked – which would mostly keep technology inaccessible for kids who need it for school and they have no say in it).

    Anyway, I think parents should make an effort to get their children to register on their 18th birthday and to encourage them to fill in their first ballot because some of the weird little county issues on those things are pretty interesting. and kids who go off to university should be encouraged to register in their university county if that’s where measures will be effecting them.

  1. Should the voting age be lowered to 16? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition