Doing an assignment on Make It 16?

We've noticed many students are wanting to know more about Make It 16 for their assignments. So we've collated answers to some common questions we get for those assignments.

 

You’re welcome to email us at hello@makeit16.org.nz if you have any further questions.

What points of view do people have on the topic of lowering the voting age to 16 years old?

Here are a few of our reasons that we think the voting age should be 16.

 

16 and 17 year-olds already make big life decisions

At 16 you can drive, consent to sex and medical procedures, get married, leave school, move out of home, work full-time and even own a firearms license and apply to join the NZ defence force. 16 and 17 year-olds already have big responsibilities and make big life decisions. Voting on who will represent our wants and needs in parliament isn’t that different.

Preventing 16 and 17 year-olds from voting is unjustified age discrimination in breach of the Bill of Rights

We took the government to court on the basis that the current voting age of 18 is in breach of those rights. In 2021 the New Zealand Court of Appeal agreed with us that the government cannot justify why the voting age is set at 18. Meaning the current voting age of 18 is unjustified age discrimination.

You can learn more about our court case here.

There shouldn’t be taxation without representation

Most people get their first job before they turn 18, many get their first part-time or full-time job around 16 or 17. That means many rangatahi are paying income tax, without having a say on where that money goes. That is taxation without representation.

There is a growing list of countries that have already lowered their voting age to 16

Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Scotland, Wales,  Guernsey, Isle of Man, and more, all have a voting age of 16 for both local and general elections. A bill in Canada has just had its second reading and Germany’s three party coalition has  made a party promise to lower the voting age to 16 too. 

Lowering the voting age could improve youth voter turnout

Studies have shown that lowering the voting age will increase turnout and establish a pattern of voting early in people’s lives. In the first vote to be held after Scotland allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to vote, the Scottish Electoral Commission found 75% of 16 and 17-year-olds voted compared to just 54% of 18-24-year-olds. With 97% of those 16 and 17-year-olds saying they would vote again. ¹ Meaning a voting age of 16 could be a solution to improving youth voter turnout for both local and general elections.

 

¹ UK Electoral Commission. (2014). Scottish Independence Referendum. 

Voting is a fundamental right

Everyone deserves the right to have their voice heard in a democracy. Voting is about bringing together everyone’s backgrounds, life experiences and opinions to create an accurate representation of the wants and needs of everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand. By extending the voting age to 16, we’re allowing more voices to be heard, strengthening our democracy and helping the government to make better policies and changes that will benefit more people overall, including rangatahi.


And here are some reasons we often hear people don't support lowering the voting age to 16 (and why we think they're wrong 😛)

16 year-olds’ brains aren’t developed enough to vote

A NZ neurologist, Dr David Moreau said in a NewsHub interview that “The prefrontal cortex (decision-making part of brain) isn’t fully developed at 16, or 18 or even 21 it develops in mid 20s. Although this affects some types of decision-making, it doesn’t affect all. Voting falls in the latter category as it is known as a type of decision called a “cold decision” where you actually have a lot of time to do your own research, consult with others and make an informed decision. So 16 year-olds' brains are fully developed enough to make that kind of decision.” Many psychologists and neurologists around the world have done research on this with the same outcome that 16 year-old’s brains are able to make an informed decision like voting.

They’ll just vote the same as their parents

This won’t necessarily happen, in the first election held after Scotland lowered their voting age to 16, 40% of 16 and 17-year-olds voted differently to their parents. This shows that young people are capable of making their own informed decisions, separate from their parents' views. 

But they’ll just vote for the  ___ party

Like everyone else, 16 and 17 year-olds will vote for the candidates they think best represent their community and interests. Disenfranchising voters because you’re worried they won’t vote for the party you would be isn't very democratic. Lowering the voting age is a non-partisan issue because we are extending voting rights to all 16 year-olds with different backgrounds, life experiences and therefore different political opinions across the spectrum, and that’s okay. Overall the goal of lowering the voting age is to increase representation for rangatahi in decisions being made that affect them.

We should wait for civics education first

We shouldn’t wait for one before the other as civics education and lowering the voting age go hand in hand with each other. Lowering the voting age to 16 would actually act as a catalyst for better civics education. Students would become more engaged and learn more about civics as what they’re learning would become more relevant. Students will be able to put what they learn straight into action by voting within the year or next year rather than having to wait three years later or even more.

Civics education in high schools has also improved greatly in just the past few years and it’s a lot different to what many 18+ year-olds have previously experienced. In 2021 the government launched a huge civics education resource as part of the School Leaver’s Toolkit. Don’t let the name school leavers fool you though, this resource is for teachers to teach students of all year levels about civics, how parliament works and the importance of voting and playing a part in your community. The Electoral Commission also provides resources to schools to hold mock elections alongside every general election. This get’s students to experience voting, and learn how politics works, making the whole idea of voting a lot more familiar.