UPDATE: Why NZ urgently needs to lower the voting age and how to do it



Let’s be honest, New Zealand’s Political System is broken. The manner in which Political weight is solely targeted on the wealthy who have a vested interest in a no capital gains tax economy, kills off youth participation in politics. The grim reality that policy is built for baby boomers and the rich is blindingly obvious to 18 year olds who have a cynical view of politics. The difficulty in getting them to engage is that they are actually right, the system is built by those who profit from it and numerically that’s baby boomers. The state subsidised universals of education, healthcare, superannuation and housing have been denied younger generations as they also have to deal with climate change which will impact them far more disproportionately than those with a property portfolio.

So how do we change the dynamics in NZ politics? We lower the voting age to 16. The sudden influx of tens of thousands of new voters with their own concerns and their own voice finally being heard could be the very means of not only lifting our participation rates, but reinvigorating the very value of our democracy.

How would we go about this? I think that a compulsory unit of the Social Studies curriculum is a civics course that explains NZer’s rights as citizens and the importance of democracy as our political system, and that part of this is activism by students to lower the voting age to 16 so that their views on the world they are inheriting can be heard.

If we want people to buy into society and the common bond upon us all, then we need to have a universal suffrage that takes into account those younger citizens whose interests are being ignored. We would be a better democracy for it.


UPDATE: The ever brilliant Chris Trotter has taken an interest in this idea of lowering the age to 16 and I would just like to clarify the point I was making. I don’t see the lowering of the age to 16 as a means of getting the Left elected, that’s not the point of my argument.  The current weighting of politics is for baby boomers, if we are to change that, younger voices with their interests need to be included. I’m not suggesting the lowering of the age of voting to 16 so that ‘the left can win’, I’m suggesting the lowering of the voting age to 16 to end the intergenerational theft that has become official party policy under National. Ongoing inequality, renter rights, tertiary education debt and climate change are concerns that 16 and 17 years olds face in a way that boomers don’t, forcing politicians to listen to those voices is the only way to ensure the quality of our democracy isn’t simply tipped in favour of those with the money to play the game.


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  1. The civics course is at least as important as the voting age. 16/7yo’s can be marketed to as easily as anyone else, more so thru today’s technology. You definitely want them to be more informed about what they’re actually voting for than our sorry age group.

  2. With the struggle to get people enrolled. I’m not sure this will help Boomer. If the age group who do enroll, vote, then they will hold the power.

    • The people do not hold the power when they VOTE, they vote/consent to be ruled by a corporate candidate (.01%).
      The need the ignorance 16yrs olds as the wiser older voters are opting out.

  3. Equal parts disenfranchised cynicism, equal parts complacent ignorance.

    If you think lowering the voting age is going to excite the curiosity of the young who are not voting now, you are thinking about different young people from the ones I am thinking about.

    If you want them voting, make it cooler, not easier. But even then, helping them to understand most of the issues will have to wait for a following wind. It’s hard enough getting people who have seen and suffered a good deal of life to understand why they should vote. Good luck with the beginners.

    • You can’t guarantee that it will excite young people to vote but if teachers actually discuss policy with their students in class and then the class is bussed to the nearest voting booth to vote on election year it will at least make students familiar with the process. Some may not vote again for 20 years but I guarantee a higher propotion of them will vote 3 years later than school leavers currently do.

      Actually discussing policy in class prior to an election will also make the inanity of modern political debate very apparent to them.

      It’s the sort of real life experience that good teachers can really get their teeth into.

      • yes I have great faith in young people in schools to think clearly and dispassionately about issues of social justice and politics

        ….many of them would put the cynicism and self- interest of their elders to shame

  4. Call me old fashioned if you must but I think this link nutshells what’s going on in NZ/ Aotearoa today despite the fact that it’s American-centric. ( Same , same I guess . ) Generally speaking, it deals with the natural progression of greed fuelled by anxiety which is capitalised on by the Banks.


    If you want more people to vote, and not just ignorant children, voting must be made compulsory. Sure , you’ll get the idiots who’ll not give a fuck what other idiot they vote so long as the paper work’s in order but you will get other people starting to take an interest in who they vote for if, indeed, they must vote.

    If you don’t vote ? You should no longer be entitled to the following:

    Welfare .

    Hospital care . ( Which includes emergency dental . )

    Retirement benefit.




    Police .

    Airforce .


    Further more, if you continue to refuse to vote you’re deported to a country where they frown upon voting, like North Korea because I don’t want to rub shoulders with careless bastards who take everything and give nothing in return.

    If some of todays youth could be given one label it could be the ‘ I don’t Care Generation’. And to them I’d say ” The price of freedom is eternal vigilance . ”
    Further more , the kids I know are far more Right Wing and Me,Me orientated than even their puffed up Property Portfolio parents are.

    I could go on but I’m suddenly I’m bored with this.

  5. I’m afraid that in a civics class we’d teach them that Labour is left-wing and National is right-wing. When people think like that, policies such as the 90 day right to fire are left-wing & right-wing policies! The 2000 ERA was a left-wing piece of legislation! WFF is left-wing!

    A lot of kids around the age of 16-18 are little shits that were created by big shits, and they’re the ones that will vote. Check out the strength of the Young Nats – silly little zombies.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of faith in our youth, but I think the Tory-toddlers will outvote the kids who were taught empathy and compassion.

    Our political shit-hole needs to be owned by current voters. We need to ask ourselves why so many people are voting for neoliberal Labour and neoliberal National?

    I’d rather see dystopian-environmentalism classes in school: “Guess what kids, your future is fucked so get angry and burn capitalism to the ground”.

    None of this green-capitalism, green-green bullshit. Tell them the truth and give them guns! (metaphorical guns of course)

  6. A load of twaddle that ne would expect from a well meaning but “ignorant of human development” idealist.
    There is far more substance for a lifting of the voting age rather than a lowering, especially with respect to males.
    – Doubters should read behavioural studies.

    However given that it is normally the youth that are potential victims of political hubris better to stay as we are.

    • Can some one translate that^^^ into English?

      Just a little tip. If you want to endear the youth to your cause. Try not to write like a strung out ice addict.

      I find it is better to teach youth how to identify fraudsters. Rather than preaching from text books.

  7. +100 Great Post ….totally agree “I think that a compulsory unit of the Social Studies curriculum is a civics course that explains NZer’s rights as citizens and the importance of democracy as our political system, and that part of this is activism by students to lower the voting age to 16 so that their views on the world they are inheriting can be heard.”

    Kids need to be enrolled to vote at school …so this means 14…before any of them leave school …and the civic course should be started at 13 or 14….and work up towards the enrollment before any leave school.

    • `1000% CHOOKY,

      My son has competed an Electricians 3yr apprentice course in Germany & had to do a Germany social studies” course as part of his electrical training finishing at 27yrs old so he come out much more aware of politics through that course, so you are bang ON.

  8. Madness. Do you know how many people that age actually know anything about politics? Just think back to your own views at that age and how naive and undeveloped they were, as is the case with almost everyone.

    • True, but look at what NZ has been voting for in the last 30 years!
      The problem isn’t that 16-18 year olds are too ignorant to vote, it’s that they’re as ignorant as the over 18’s.

      Voting in the smiling assassin in the wake of the GFC, and then making him one of the most popular leaders we’ve ever had. I don’t think the under 18’s could get more stupid than that. The problem with letting 16-18 year olds vote is that the young tories will vote and the others won’t.

      Considering how shit Labour and National’s policies are, and that they get so many votes, I don’t think can label 16-18 year olds too naive and undeveloped to vote. I’d ask if they are stupid enough to join the morons who think Blairism is left-wing? They probably are.

  9. Having spent a lot of time considering such a move, and the likely benefits and disadvantages, I am inclined to speak out against lowering the voting age to 16 and to keep it at 18.

    My reason is, we sadly have a lack of proper, well rounded education and knowledge about civic rights and responsibilities, a lack about history, social studies and democracy. Yes, there is some education in these areas, particularly if you choose to study certain subject at tertiary level, but what I hear and see from many aged 18 or under, it is very worrying. Some are of course well informed, but sadly very many are blissfully ignorant of matters what make a democracy function and be alive.

    There is a mindset of pure opportunism, also of following trends and fads, of competition among young ones, to be popular, to have a profile and “following” on social media, and so much is very shallow and superficial.

    For any social or civic studies to show results, such study subjects need to have been taught for a fair few years, before any positive results may become detectable. And with the massive influence of certain social media, that is offered by purely business orientated operators, who just want to get mass followings, and mass membership, for the purpose of passing on user data to advertisers, so many are just willing fodder for the manipulative forces we have.

    No matter how much we may try to generate political interest, awareness and participation, it may not bear enough fruit, given the fact that so many may simply not be that interested. It is easier to follow the flow of what we have. And the MSM is using social media for the very same reason, to reach and tie down more people, to consume the crap they serve us. The clicks of templates and icons, the easy browsing on flashing, nice pictures and special effects, that is easier and more attractive to most, than to spend some deep, analytical and serious thoughts on what makes the world go round, and what makes societies function or not.

    Bring in economics, and there we have the kind of Chicago Boy University teachers influence their students’ thoughts. The message is, if you want a career and job, follow us, do not go astray into “Marxist” dreaming and illusions. So people are faced with harsh realities, stay away from unions and activists, and you may get a job, do the opposite, and you will be locked out of employment and networks.

    Simply lowering the voting age may actually result in damned little, otherwise Mana may have succeeded last election, as they tried to reach the very young generation with some exciting ideas and new approaches. It did not work, so more research is needed.

    And it is too simplistic to see it as baby boomers holding all controls. Nobody stops the young from voting, except themselves, choosing not to bother. So yes, get them interested, those 18 years and older, ideally the younger ones at 16, but do it in different ways, and try for a start to get those 18 to 29 motivated for a start. I do regrettably see too gullible, simplistic minded young people, who have ideas, but not clue about how to get things organised and about how to do the hard work, and to stay on course. Any slight bit of set-back immediately turns them off, and they do not keep trying, as they have grown up with the instant gratification expectation. But you cannot run any society with such expectations, and with having decisions based only on emotive actions.

    No, I do not think this is the solution, to just lower the voting age. The ACT Party may reinvigorate itself, taking advantage of the young, as many rather want much freedom the liberatarian way, with as little ties attached as possible.

  10. Typical, advocate teaching them about their rights as citizens at school but nothing about teaching them their responsibilities as citizens.

    • See Andrew. Comments like those is why you are a moron.

      It’s difficult to estimate the quantity of our work devoted to data-shuffling compliance with and enforcement of perverse regulations and neofeudal menial-servitude to the top 10%, but shall we start with 40% and go from there?

    • @ andrew.

      Who’s version of the concept ‘responsibilities as citizens’ are you talking about ?
      Those of the lunatic, neo liberal, financialised capitalism brigade ? Those few morons , themselves educated well beyond their intelligence and having long forgotten what it means to be egalitarian ? ( More likely had egalitarianism ‘educated’ out of them in preference for personal greed and the deceitful ways of self-deception to aid them in helping themselves to the money of others via dubiously normalised, law-changes-under-urgency swindlings. Who had the spectre of jonky , currency trader and bold, public tugger spring to mind ?)
      The importance of educating people of their ‘ rights ‘ is that when the espousers of logical fallacies come along, such as yourself , we’re all on the same page and can spot a bullshitter, such as yourself, 1.6 k away .

      Voting, like Unionism, MUST be compulsory.
      If you’re unsure of what life might be like without compulsory voting and compulsory unionism then watch an evenings TV or simply open the window of your house ( If you have a house ) and look outside .

      • It’s an affront to democracy to make boring compulsory. It goes against my idea of it is what I mean. The last thing I need to be told is that it is my “duty” to vote. It’s just as much a right to withhold a vote as it is to express it. It might be counter productive, but it is in itself a protest and a freedom. As for 16 year olds voting, most kids if that age are still pretty well clones of their parents, (even the politically aware ones reflect their parents activism one way or the other). My kids might have voted how I told them at 16, but by 18 it was a different kettle of fish.
        Civics at schools, I am overwhelmingly for it. However how that’s managed is problematic. I’d like to think the lessons were cross party conceptualised, that they were largely video delivered so as to have as little bias transmitted as possible.

        • @ Yabby . Heard of irony . Here it is .

          irony 1 |ˈʌɪrəni|
          noun (pl.ironies) [ mass noun ]
          the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect: ‘Don’t go overboard with the gratitude,’ he rejoined with heavy irony.
          • a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result: the irony is that I thought he could help me | [ count noun ] : one of life’s little ironies.
          • (also dramatic or tragic irony)a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions is clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.
          ORIGIN early 16th cent. (also denoting Socratic irony): via Latin from Greek eirōneia ‘simulated ignorance’, from eirōn ‘dissembler’.

          So, you think voting is boring do you? Perhaps compared to the Boo Yeah mutha fucka high five me TV that’s ramming ‘reality shows’ down our throats while our all-bought-and-not-voted-for politicians sell your very country out from under your instant gratification feet, as opposed to at least pretending to understand your politics then going to a library etc and meet a nice person who will give you voting papers to tick here and there so as you can have an opinion? Until then ? If you don’t vote? Then you can fuck right off ! And if you think that choosing not to vote ? Because it’s one of your little ‘freedoms’ of your democracy then you’re an idiot.

          Thinking that not voting is a democratic right is about as ironic as it can get. When you meet all those people who , right or wrong, fought for , and died for you so you can espouse your ignorant bull shit ? What are you going to tell them ? ( Speaking metaphorically )
          What ? That voting’s boring and it’s my democratic right to not be arsed ?
          That’s why voting MUST be compulsory . To circumvent that kind of stupidity.

  11. @brandon – sad but true – and when your older you wish you had made more of an effort when you were younger…maybe then things would be different?

  12. wow…I am very surprised at the anti youth and lack of trust sentiments expressed in some of these comments !…it is appalling really…and these comments from supposed leftists and people pro democracy?!

    ( a sad reflection on themselves and their own youth perhaps?)

    no wonder NZ youth are depressed and don’t vote if this is how they perceive their elders and those running the country!

  13. This is why the the left are failing around the world with the exception of Canada. I suggest teaching people about responsibilities at the same time as they are taught rights and the first reaction it to call me a Moron.

    • Tell me, Andrew, when you talk about responsibility, when is the last time National took responsibility for any of it’s shortcomings? Aside from Kate Wilkinson resigning over the Pike River scandal (which is bizarre, as she had no part to play in the deregulation of the mining industry in 1991), can you point to any Minister resigning over a failed policy?

      Name me one.

    • Citizens have a responsibility to pay debt? Is there anything else?

      Most people prefer freedom over being hamstered like a moron in a debt trap.

    • “This is why the the left are failing around the world with the exception of Canada. I suggest teaching people about responsibilities at the same time as they are taught rights and the first reaction it to call me a Moron.”

      Andrew, you’re a moron if you think the Left won in Canada. You need to take personal responsibility and read about the Liberal Party of Canada – they’re liberal centrists.

  14. 1 million people did not vote out of a population of 4.5 million at the last Election, that is appalling, considering that a number of the 4.5 million are below the minimum voting age. Many I speak do did not bother voting as they did not believe their vote counted, it is the uneducated and the misinformed who do not vote and this plays into the hands of the right wing parties.

    • That is ignorant as the truth is “He who counts the vote counts”.
      Democracy is a myth and used to get people to consent to be ruled by the .01% corporate candidates.
      As the media deeply affects outcome voting is also not fair or informed.
      Its a farce and its good that many people are not voting -no good citizen would vote for a corrupt political control system to be ruled by the elites.
      As support for their rule dwindles they need the consent that is not being given so they are going for younger voters that can easily be influenced and manipulated as most are hooked into social media.

  15. Teaching Intermediate school children I see daily evidence of emergent political thinking that would rival the sophistication of many of the elderly. I would quite seriously suggest going below 16 because school’s are great at getting children to engage in serious issues (like ANZAC Day) and if they did vote it would establish the democratic habit before they reached the ‘fashionable to opt out’ age.

  16. You don’t need 16 year olds voting bomber, they’ll be even less informed than their parents, and in large part swayed by their parents. Let’s face it, most adults still support a political party like a sporting team; in large part they’ve been indoctrinated with a party to support based on their parents and social circles and will support this “team” till the bitter end, without ever knowing any of their policies or the other parties policies. I agree with the need for political education, but most 16 year olds are too immature to vote.

    I thought Gareth Morgan’s idea of introducing an age limit for voting. Reflecting on his opinion piece i think anyone if retirement age should lose the right to vote. It makes sense to me. This surely would be better than lowering the age?

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