Of course we should lower the voting age to 16 (and 5 other ways to make NZ Democracy better)


Children’s Commissioner backs campaign to lower voting age

The Children’s Commissioner is backing a campaign to lower the voting age to 16, saying grey-haired New Zealanders need to acknowledge young people of today are more aware of the world’s problems.

I would suggest that Boomers don’t really give two shits about climate change because they will be dead before the real apocalypse hurts them and because the political system is owned by Boomers and the property speculating middle classes, they have zero interest in doing a damned thing to change the the system they have profited from.

That’s why Politicians do nothing real with climate change legislation, that’s why the Green Party seem to think being carbon neutral in 31 years is a ‘success’.

New Zealand’s Political System is broken. The manner in which Political weight is solely targeted on the property speculating wealthy who have a vested interest in a no capital gains tax economy that also does nothing to combat climate change kills off meaningful participation in transformative politics.

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The grim reality that policy is built for baby boomers and the rich is blindingly obvious to young voters 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.

There are also 4 other things we should look to do to make our democracy worth engaging in.

1: Allow any voter to go onto the unpublished electoral roll and make the process as easy as ticking a box. So many of our citizens are on the run from debt collectors or abusive spouses that they refuse to enroll so as to not be detected. Any NZer can go onto the unpublished roll but the Electoral Commission goes out of its way to demand all sorts of reasons for it to occur. If the end point is to make it as easy as possible for citizens to participate, stream lining this process and making it as easy as a box tick is a priority.

2: Make the date of the election a Wednesday and make it a public holiday. We complain so much in this country about not having a day we can celebrate as NZers because many people feel anxious about the conflict of Waitangi Day. Why not search for that which binds us and celebrate that? Election Day should be a celebration because we are one of the few privileged nations around the planet that allows political leadership to change hands minus violence and repression. Our exercising of the right to vote peacefully is celebration in itself and making it a mid week public holiday would do more for participation rates than any single thing the Justice and Electoral Select Committee review could endorse.

3: The National Party as part of their tough on crime posturing passed law stripping prisoners of their rights to vote. Removing a prisoner incarcerated for less than 3 years their ability to vote removes any connection a prisoner might have with civil society. The argument is that prisoners who are inside for less than 3 years should be able to vote because the decision of the election will impact them one way or another once they are released within the lifetime of that Government. Stripping prisoners of their right to vote puts us on the opposite side of the European Court of Human Rights who have argued against this type of prisoner flogging. Their argument is that incarceration doesn’t remove your human right to vote, and we should look to repeal such knee jerk legislation if we agree universal suffrage is a noble endeavour.

4: Expand the civics course in schools to new citizen communities and make the course a compulsory part of becoming a NZer so that new migrants know their civic rights and responsibilities.We do our new citizens a terrible disservice by not extending any hand of welcome when they become NZers other than a certificate ceremony. How can we expect them to interact in civil society with all the autonomy citizens have if the history and cultural norms of our political establishment haven’t been explained?

5: Lower the MMP threshold for Democratic representation to 2.5%. One of the real problems we have in NZ politics is the total lack of real political ideas and debate, the 5% cut off hasn’t led to more ideas being explored and argued, it’s led to a crushing of voices. We need a far more diverse range of voices in our Parliament and the State resources that allow those political Parties to function are crucial for allowing fledgling political movements to grow.

The falling quality of our Democracy is making it worthless. If real change can’t be generated at the ballot box, if it really is just the tyranny of the majority handpicked by the vested interests of the rich and privileged then we have no hope of finding broad based consensus to tackle the enormous challenges we face from a Climate Emergency future.

We must expand the franchise of Universal Suffrage if it is to have any power.


  1. The idea that the crisis of western democracy and the climate crisis can be jointly resolved by extending the franchise to 16 year olds is hopeful indeed.
    If 16 year olds get to vote in parliamentary elections, they will end up in the same powerless and disillusioned state as the 18, 20, 22 and 24 year olds.
    These proposals would be akin to putting out a few more deck chairs on the “Titanic”.
    If the 16 years want to effect real change they should continue with extra-parliamentary direct action, acts of civil disobedience, and the development of alternative genuinely democratic institutions of government.

    • Agree.
      We might also get some interesting bills put forward though, the “no homework bill”, or some legislation on what time Dads car has to be back.
      Or the PlayStation bill 2019.
      Think of the possibilities.
      Giving a vote to kids that don’t know what a full time job is….. not a good idea.
      How about an upper voting age?
      Or you either get National super or a vote but not both?

    • Why’s it hopeful? At 16 years old parents are still somewhat responsible for them, and would presumably have to take them voting (drive them or what ever). The only reason to go against this is if certain people wanted less voters and not more. Although any younger than 16 and the bellow 16 year olds will probably just vote for who there parents say to vote for so I think 16 is the bottom.

  2. We could have real Democracy, and vote on policies, like the Swiss do, or we can continue fiddling around the edges, leaving all the real power to those who have the most money.Which is not boomers BTW. It is a long time, if ever, since boomers were over half of actual, voters.

  3. You overlooked the fist and most clear and present danger, Bomber: Make voting for citizens only, not for foreign residents (colonists)… or.. don’t, and prepare for NZ Wars II…

  4. I fully support extending the right for 16 year olds to vote. If anything, taxation without representation is anathema to a democratic system;

    ” The Government has been accused of penny-pinching from kids to make ends meet after it cut children’s tax credits in Budget 2012.

    Revenue Minister Peter Dunne announced yesterday that school-aged children would no longer get a tax refund if they earned wages for part-time work.”

    ref: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10808314

    However, let’s not expect young people to automatically vote for progressive parties. As a young person in my teens and 20s I was embarrassingly right-wing in most of my views. How right wing? Let’s just say Act on Campus would’ve welcomed me with open arms.

    It took years, plus events like the felling of native forests at Pureora and the 1973 Chilean coup d’état, for me to turn my back on the Right and pursue more humane politics. (In fact, the older I get, the further to the Left I seem to be shifting. I’ll be a card-carrying marxist-leninist/maoist by the time I hit retirement…)

    So while I 100% support extending the right to vote, it may not be as positive for progressive policies as we might hope.

  5. So you offer a public holiday as an incentive to get people to vote? What type of people are you appealing to? Lazy bums?

    Indeed an argument could be made to make voting inconvenient, not convenient. That way you get people voting who really do care, really have thought things through, and who will value their vote and make it count.

    If people need a friggin public holiday as a bribe to vote they obviously do not really give a shit about the country or the democratic process.

    • So we make voting an inconvenience and voter turnout will be as it is in the US, which averages 60%. I guess that suits you though as only those you deem fit to cast a vote will do so.
      Why don’t you be honest and ask for those who wont vote for your preferred candidate to have their vote invalidated?

      • Well considered votes are far more important than simply the percentage of those who vote.

        What’s so great about a big voter turnout if say half the votes cast are no better than a random guess, or simply a response to demagogy?

        • “Well considered votes are far more important than simply the percentage of those who vote.”

          On one side of the mouth Martyn often argues correctly that immature teenage brains result in poor judgement and risk assessment and that is an important consideration in the argument against police chases of fleeing vehicles. Out of the other side of the mouth adolescents are responsible and rational decision makers well capable of being entrusted with the opportunity to influence the reins of political power.
          And we haven’t even started on the topics of life experience, peer and parental influences on immature brains etc.

  6. 16 Years old can wait like we had to, no need to grow up too fast when they start paying taxes they can vote what is the hurry 18 years old don’t even vote so why push for 16 year olds who are still kids maybe if we get some civic education in schools then we can look to change but what we need now is a campaign to encourage those who can vote to do so as voter turn out is poor and sad for democracy.

  7. I think the idea of voting at 16 has its merits considering the world we now live and operate in where social media dominates.

    It seems more and more younger people are becoming more proactive about the serious issues we face and will ultimately effect them like the climate disaster which is nearly upon us.

    And they are participating particularly in the U.S with the huge support Bernie gets at his rallies as they respond to an alternative future being offered through democratic socialism.

    It just proves that positively engaging younger voters with a campaign about the issues that directly effect them and how to respond with a consistent plan of action motivates them too get involved.

    I totally support the introduction of civic education in schools which is vitally important if we want a strong democracy and increased participation in the process.

    The idea of allowing your name on an unpublished electoral roll is sensible and should be made easier for those who want too vote but through this current system can’t out of fear.

    ” New Zealand’s Political System is broken. The manner in which Political weight is solely targeted on the property speculating wealthy who have a vested interest in a no capital gains tax economy that also does nothing to combat climate change kills off meaningful participation in transformative politics ”

    A huge block of neglected voters are out there waiting for a movement that will say enough is enough and seriously challenge the status quo.

  8. That’s right Martyn . We ought to let children vote. They have full maturity, excellent comprehension skills and life experience enough to quickly discern when politicians are lying (using marketing spin), not to mention they have a full overview of NZ’s past 40 years to tell how and why the quality of life in NZ has done a drastic U-Turn, and what changes are needed to reverse this trend.
    In fact we should let 16 year olds run the country. Oh wait… its heading that way already

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