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Justifying Aotearoa’s voting age

November 28, 2022

Interviews by Daniel Teunissen and Joe Wickins, adapted by Joe Wickins

Listen to the full interviews with Dr Nick Munn, Make It 16 co-founder Sanat Singh, and Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman.

Last week, the Supreme Court made a judgment on lowering New Zealand’s legal voting age.

The court has accepted the claims made by members of the Make It 16 campaign that the current voting age limit of 18 is inconsistent with section 19 of New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act. This means that by preventing 16- and 17-year-olds from voting, they’re discriminated against on the basis of their age.

This decision means parliament now has to defend the 18 age limit if they wish to keep it.

Last week, 95bFM Reporter Joe Wickins spoke to Dr Nick Munn, a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy from the University of Waikato on the justification behind lowering the voting age or keeping it at 18 years old. 

Munn says “I think it is a really good decision, I’m glad that they made it and it’s quite encouraging as someone who’s been arguing for a lowered voting age for a while. To see the Labour government take on board the decision of the court, and rather than simply opening the matter up for debate, introduce a bill.”

“I don’t think there are any good arguments against it… I think it’s just wrong to say that young people don’t pay tax. Large numbers of 16 to 17 year olds are already working. So for anyone that’s working they’re paying tax, for anyone that’s not they’re paying tax via GST.”

Munn also mentions how it's tempting to worry that young people are inexperienced or that they don’t know enough about how to vote, or maybe people worry that they lack maturity.

“There’s a quite simple response to all this… we don’t actually judge adults with regards to their maturity or their knowledge or their competence…we just let any and every adult vote, simply because they’re over the age of eighteen.”

95bFM Reporter Daniel Teunissen spoke to Sanat Singh, the co-founder of Make It 16, last week following the Supreme Court’s decision and asked about what the next step in their campaign entails.

Sanat says “Well we have basically a six month timeline with the new bill that the government is introducing, and that is going to require us to do a lot of lobbying work on the ground and internally to make sure that we can get enough votes on our side to make this pass and give us the best fighting chance.”

The group has been advocating for change since 2019.