Government Bill to lower voting age must include option to just lower voting age for local elections
“We welcome the decision of the Government today to introduce a Bill to lower the voting age to 16. This is an appropriate response to the Supreme Court’s historic decision that the current voting age is a breach of the Bill of Rights Act,” says co-Director of Make It 16 Caeden Tipler (they/them).
“Make It 16 though wants to ensure that this Bill gives Parliament the choice to lower the voting age for local elections only.
“Currently, the voting age for general elections is entrenched (meaning a parliamentary supermajority is required), but the voting age for local elections is not. This means that there could be a situation where there is sufficient support in Parliament to lower the voting age for local elections, but not for general elections.
“This is an opportunity now to test Parliament’s support for the range of options that New Zealand has open to it.
“Countries that have lowered the age have often done it in stages. Germany just announced it is lowering its voting age for European Elections before considering a wider change for federal elections. Scotland also lowered the age for the 2014 Independence Referendum first, before the Scottish Parliament in 2015 unanimously agreed to lower the age for all Scottish elections.”
Make It 16 do not support a referendum on the voting age
“Voting eligibility is a human rights issue and should not be put to a referendum where those who already have the right to vote get a veto on the rights of others. A majority should not decide on whether or not a minority even gets a voice.
“Make It 16 supports statements from the Government that they are not planning a referendum and notes that the voting age was lowered in 1969 and 1974 in New Zealand without a referendum.
“Finally, Make It 16 is also calling on Parliament to change the entrenched provisions that were passed in 1956 with no public debate and are still on the books today. It makes no sense that Parliament could remove the right of women to vote with a 51% majority, but needs a 75% majority to give 16 and 17 year-olds the right to vote in general elections. Make It 16 has submitted on this point to the Independent Electoral Review.”
Under Speakers’ Rulings, the 75% parliamentary majority rule for entrenched provisions only applies at the Committee of the Whole House stage of a Bill. This means that even if a Bill gets between 51-75% support at First Reading it will still be referred to a select committee.
The voting age for general elections is entrenched under s 268 of the Electoral Act 1993. Voting in local elections is governed by the Local Electoral Act 2001.