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Lower the voting age?

Written By: - Date published: 2:10 pm, October 11th, 2011 - 47 comments
Categories: democratic participation, political education - Tags: ,

It’s a suggestion that comes up every now and again.  Here it is in its current incarnation:

Lower voting age: Mana

The Mana Party is calling for 16 and 17-year-olds to be allowed to vote. The current voting age is 18 but Mana says young people should be given a say on what sort of country they will inherit.

Mana’s social wellbeing spokeswoman Sue Bradford said the lower voting age should be introduced alongside measures to include civics education as part of the school curriculum.

“As a nation we are very keen to find fault with our young people, but slow to recognise their contribution and to give them the opportunity to participate in the decisions that determine their future.”

Mana wanted the core curriculum to include education about political conventions and mechanisms, as well as the underpinnings of central and local government and the legal system, she said. ….

I’m in favour of both proposals. Politics should be about the future, not the past. Get young people informed, and get them involved early. Any of the counter-arguments to 16 year olds voting apply equally well to vast chunks of the “adult” voting population, and besides, I don’t see how the young can make any bigger mess of things than we are making.


47 comments on “Lower the voting age?”

  1. The Baron 1

    Interesting idea. I support with the hope that 16 & 17 year olds are up to the responsibility, and educate and inform themselves accordingly.

    With that in mind, age is a bit of a blunt criteria for determining political franchise. I’d rather see people being required to pass some sort of basic test to determine whether they are sufficiently informed to participate fully. If you can pass the test at enrollment, you can vote – regardless of age.

    • Chris 1.1

      Couldn’t happen though. Would be too easy for a government that felt inclined to interpret informed as siding with them.

      i.e. Question 1 Do you know the main parties
      Question 2 Are you aware how National is proposing to close the deficit?
      Question 3 Are you aware Labour caused the deficit?
      Question 4 Are you aware that partial privitisation is an efficient way to raise funds?

      Answer no to any of these questions and you can’t vote.

      • logie97 1.1.1

        Question 5. Do you agree to a government being able to send you away to foreign shores to fight and be killed in a war. If yes then you have the right to vote.

    • Peter 1.2

      No need for a test. Just give everyone the franchise at birth, with their parents holding their proxy either until they take it up themselves, or they turn 16.

    • McFlock 1.3

      I get what you’re saying (and civics classes in schools would be a good idea to go alongside), the trouble is that it screams “literacy test”. Something that’s either open to local tampering or merely forces society to conform to arbitrary national standards. Both of which are bad.
      Personally I fail to see a natural dividing line for the vote, so 18 seems like a reasonable level. A lot of 15 and 16 year olds are still, well, idiots. So are a lot of 18y.o., or even 40 y.o., but 18 is around the point that idiocy-related hospital admissions tend to peak and begin to decline. Sort of a common-sense analogue.

      • McFlock 1.3.1

        actually, allow me to retract – a tory is terrified it will open the floodgates of naive teens voting in socialist policies, which is an aspect I hadn’t considered. It smacks of gerrymandering (demographic not geographic), but call me neutral on the idea 🙂

  2. This sounds like a reasonable idea. I especially like voting being introduced while they can be taught about it at school. This will get some complaints of teachers telling kids who to vote for but there can easily be ways of monitoring that.

    Should this be decided by a referendum? Of 16+ or 18+?

  3. Jimmy 3

    Given the poor electoral enrollment levels for under 25’s at this time I think our focus on youth voting should be elsewhere.

  4. Phaedrus 4

    On principle, I like this. However going by the reported lower enrolments in those 18+, it seems we’ve got to engage these people first and bring them into an active role in voting. Merely changing the eligibility, without first bringing meaning to the process, seems to be a ‘cart before the horse’ approach.

  5. lprent 5

    <curmudgeon mode=’extreme’>

    Having looked at the appalling voting and enrollment record of 18-24yo’s for a while, I’d stipulate that I’d agree if the voting for teens (and 20’s) must be compulsory. If we’re going to put it in to help then get used to voting, then why not go the full hog and make sure that they do it?

    While we’re at it, make sure that failure to vote when required is a criminal offence in adult court. That way if we don’t get them to have the educational experience of voting, then we can give them the educational experience of being in the dock of an actual criminal court and possibly prison for repeat offenders.



    • Jenny 5.1

      Personally I am in awe of the enthusiasm and optimism of our young.

      Why do 18 to 24 year olds fail to take up the opportunity to enroll?

      Maybe years of telling them that their opinions are irrelevant.

      Get them young I say.

      ACLF (Anti-Curmudgeon Liberation Front)

    • Rich 5.2

      So what your saying is that the state is allowed to use violence (which is the ultimate sanction behind all laws) in order to force people to express an opinion. Why don’t you go the whole hog – waterboard recalcitrant non-voters until they make a choice.

      What’s wrong with the idea that not voting equates to voting for whatever everyone else decides?

      • Rich 5.2.1

        [I would however make enrolment automatic and transparent, which isn’t hard to do.

        The “motor-voter” idea is about the easiest. Applying for a driving license results in a person’s voting eligibility getting checked (e.g. against passport and immigration records) and their being enrolled. Same thing with passports and tax numbers, for those that don’t drive.]

  6. Tribeless 6

    Dreadful idea. Nine out of ten kids would vote Left because through necessary immaturity – as with our PM – they’ve mistaken socialism with social caring, thus we would be destroyed by Left politics completely.

    Age and maturity teaches the lesson the Left is the problem that has no solution, thus I want mature voters who’ve had a chance to learn from life, and read some philosophy.

    Indeed, I think there is a very good argument for saying only those who are paying tax should have the vote … now that would correct a whole lot of societal and economic problems quickly.

    (Mind you, democracy, itself, is the problem. A constitutional minarchy is really what we need, but there are so many brute, busy body Statists who want to run everyone’s lives for them, it’ll never happen in my lifetime, unfortunately.)

    • McFlock 6.1

      “Indeed, I think there is a very good argument for saying only those who are paying tax should have the vote …”
      Nah, it’s just a tory wet dream. Even if you managed it, all that would happen is that there’d be a real revolution within a few years and your ass would get kicked out of the country.

      • Tribeless 6.1.1

        Well if the Tories had learned the politics of brute force and Statism from the Left masters of it, yes I agree. No doubt.

        But I’m no Tory, I’m classical liberal, and just want the sort of freedom and liberty no Lefty or Tory Statist is ever going to give me, even though I can’t name one politician in my lifetime who is or has been qualified to run my life for me.

        • McFlock

          Lol – “classical liberal” – 70% of the population are “free” to starve, work lethally dangerous jobs for a pittance, or wait for the local hob-knobbery to throw a few crumbs their way. 
          “Classical liberal” is synonymous with “selfish idiot”.

          • Tribeless

            Not hard to see why Western civilisation is falling to Statist barbarity and bankruptcy. As our welfare states decline into the violence from the unloved children of the unloved.

            The shallowest thinkers I have met equate socialism with caring and classical liberalism with greed. Along the theme of this thread, you think in the straight lines of a child.

            • McFlock

              Nah, I’ve just seen to many idiot tories like yourself to bother reiterating the “you see, normal people tend to give a shit when we see a hungry child. The fact that you want the so-called ‘freedom’ to refuse to help it is a deficiency in YOUR character, not ours” debate.

              • Tribeless

                [I’ve let this long ramble through because it’s a nice example of how you can make anything true given the right premises: for example, all socialists are arseholes because of this story that Tribeless made up. Eddie]

                How old are you – nine?

                I think you need the parable of the piss-head – I reckon you should change your handle to Toohey.

                Classical Liberal Society:

                Freewoman Dagney walking along the street sees a person whose been injured. He’s fallen off his bike trying to learn a new trick to impress his kid with. She rushes to him, checks him out, thinks he doesn’t look too good, so pulls out her mobile – one of those great innovations of capitalism – and rings an ambulance – yes, the free, classical liberal society still has ambulances – and sits with him until it comes, keeping him comfortable. She finds out his name is Freeman Hank.

                Why did Freewoman Dagney do this?

                Because she was human, she loved her life, going about it excitedly pursuing her happiness, why would she not help someone in trouble.

                Freeman Hank spent three weeks in hospital, paid for by the insurance that was part of his salary package, and over the next decade went on to become a billionaire after inventing a bicycle helmet that used GPS to warn of cars driven by the teenage children of drunken social(alist) democrats, and he used a great part of the proceeds to set up a charity teaching philosophy throughout Africa after being almost killed in a tribal war while cycling through Zaire on holiday. His Non Initiation of Force Principles 101 is now being taught throughout that continent.

                Social(alist) Democracy

                Social activist Toohey is driving hungover from the party after last night’s demo, and accidentally hits a cyclist. He pulls up, runs to him, checks him out, curses that he’s been so busy campaigning for the imposition of the capital gains tax to achieve equity in the tax system, and what with the excise tax rise increasing the cost of his tobacco, and the 73% excise tax on his whisky, he couldn’t afford to keep up with his mobile plan, making it impossible to call St John, so he comforts the victim with the sense of social justice that gets him through his own life:

                ‘Hold on comrade, I’ll selflessly organise a protest march on parliament seeking aide for you. The problem is the rich pricks aren’t having enough taken from them to pay for our necessities of life, I can’t even afford to run my mobile. The injustice,’ gesticulating with his fist as he warms to his topic, ‘of it all is intolerable, I mean where do you think they are, those two doctors, sitting on their yachts swilling wine I bet, I’m glad the IRD has dealt to them. You wait, the Big Kahuna will force them all to give the two of us equal incomes so we never need be in this appalling need. Oh, this is great, thank goodness I’ve knocked you from your bike; I see it all now, your misfortune here has taught me a lesson I’m never going to forget. I’m going to demand of the State a caring society. A compassionate society where no one needs to be dying … mate? Mate?’

                ‘Oh, I think he’s dead.’

                ‘Look!’ to a passerby, ‘those damned rich pricks, they’ve let this guy die in the street.’

                [Social(alist) Democrat Toohey got diversion for a first offence, and ultimately entered politics at just 37 years old, winning his seat largely on the strength of a stunning performance in a TV debate where in five minutes he managed to use the word ‘fair’ 155 times. He staked his political flag with United, because he was excited by their scientific approach. After his second electoral win, he was made a Minister in Cabinet and after cleverly figuring out how to ‘fairly’ tax everything, set to making law after law after law – ultimately he could pass law as easily as the wind he got from eating the rich food at Ballamy’s. His biggest achievement was law to deal with New Zealand’s shocking child and adult murder rate; he passed law enacting the monitoring of all individuals by the State from birth to age of 45. In this way he made history, as a man who from nothing made something of himself …

                … while destroying a society.]

                • Ianupnorth

                  FFS get a life man, stop believing in Act and brash!

                  • Tribeless

                    ACT are compulsion touters. I vote freedom: Libertarianz.

                    Why jump to these conclusions about me? You don’t know me. Try thinking about ‘stuff’. Don’t think in straight lines, forcing everyone into little pigeon holes restricted by your own limited experience; life is much bigger and better than that. Or at least the lives of free men are: get out of my life, you and your brute, barbarian Police State.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      There’s no difference between Act and Libertarians.

                      BTW, the US health insurance scam system costs three times as much as our public health system, is about as good and only reaches 5/6ths of the population.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      You vote freedom? Do you even realise that your stupid ideas have created a prison for your own mind?

                    • Tribeless

                      For the two below, there is no comparison between ACT and Libertarianz: none. The first persists in wanting to partake in a social(alist) democracy whereas Libz want the free Classical Liberal minarchy.

                      You cite the US medical system as a privatised failure, yet the biggest single spend of the US government is Medicare: that’s no part of a free market.

                      Look at all your posts. What invests them all is aggression. Just as the State does, you all attempt to work by misrepresenting – normally through not having the ability to understand me – me, and then bullying.

                      All the classical liberal wants is a peaceful free society, where you have no influence over my life, or me over you. The main role of the limited State to police the non initiation of force principle. So, given I initiate force against no other, I can do whatever the hell I want, and you the same.

                      But your society is the opposite. Bully and cajole. You think you represent the compassionate society, but even the tone of your posts shows the opposite.

                      The classical liberal wants only to be left alone, to pursue his or her happiness, within the love and life for his family and friends. Whereas your bullying posts show you to represent the darkest places the 20th century Statist took society.

                      You would sacrifice my life on the bloodied altar of the common good. You are toxic, as is this site.

                      You carry on your coercive ways without me.

                      [but, then, who will we coerce?]

                    • RedLogix

                      All the classical liberal wants is a peaceful free society, where you have no influence over my life, or me over you.

                      All society is influence over others.

                      The classical liberal wants only to be left alone, to pursue his or her happiness, within the love and life for his family and friends.

                      Now you have me confused; first you want to be left alone, next you want family and friends. (As if these spring from nothingness to serve you personal vanity.)

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      For the two below, there is no comparison between ACT and Libertarianz: none.

                      They say the same things and follow the same ideology and it’s an ideology of greed and power. Greed for ownership of the communities wealth (privatisation) and, through that ownership, power over the community itself.

                      …yet the biggest single spend of the US government is Medicare: that’s no part of a free market.

                      It’s two things:
                      1.) The state having to step in to fix market failure
                      2.) Politicians, who have been bought out by the capitalists, giving subsidies to big business.

                      All the classical liberal wants is a peaceful free society, where you have no influence over my life, or me over you.

                      Ah, yes, the mythical non-existence of society. The delusional belief that your actions don’t affect me when it’s plainly obvious that they do and because they do affect I thus have a say in what you do.

                      So, given I initiate force against no other, I can do whatever the hell I want, and you the same.

                      Except that’s not actually true is it? Whenever you do something that affects me and I have no say in that then you have initiated force against me. The many to many relationships that would be required for your utopia to work are, quite simply, impossible and that’s why we have government – the administrative arm of society. It has, of course, been taken too far by National, Act and other right-wing parties in that they do want it to be a dictatorship by the rich.

                      But your society is the opposite. Bully and cajole.

                      Now you’re just lying. Bully and cajole? Nope, just want people to participate in society and to be aware of what’s happening around them.

                      You would sacrifice my life on the bloodied altar of the common good.

                      Again, you’re lying. All the bloodied altars are caused by the capitalists. Poverty throughout the world is a direct result of capitalism as the capitalists take and restrict the wealth of the community.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Oh, BTW Tribeless, I suggest you read this. I will warn you though, it could hurt as it has reality in it and shows up your ideology as the myth that it is.

                    • McFlock

                      It’s amazing what happens when one goes off for a quiet evening.
                      Libertarians really need to read more John Donne.

    • even beneficiaries pay GST, that’s a tax.

    • Ianupnorth 6.3

      Bullshit, I’ve got more left as I have become older. Your argument may have some merit – the older you become the greedier and more vindictive many people become.

    • felix 6.4

      From my observations, smart people tend to lean more to the left as they mature.

      As an adolescent it’s not unusual to be attracted to ideas of individuality, as they resonate well with the new found personal freedom associated with coming of age.

      Only the dull or greedy stall there forever.

  7. Worst Idea ever.

    16 year olds to have the vote??? I mean really????

    Hone must be desperate.

    [Why is it a bad idea? If you only voice conclusions, not reasons for your views that can be debated, you’re trolling. Eddie]

  8. JS 8

    Why not 12? Probably most Year 8 intermediate aged children will be studying the election in social studies next term and will be more informed about the process and the issues than many older people. It’s also about their future.

  9. Lanthanide 9

    I have some problems with this that I don’t think I can properly articulate.

    Sure, I’d like it if 16 and 17 year olds could vote, but as many above have said, a lot of them are uninformed idiots and a good bunch of them won’t vote anyway.

    I guess Sue is trying to deflect that argument by calling for civics education. I definitely agree, but think we should be having that sort of education anyway. And even with it in place, I don’t think it’ll do much good (also a lot of kids drop out from school at age 15 or 16 anyway). I do vaguely recall having some discussions about voting, the electoral systems and referenda in 4th form social studies, but I don’t know for how many classes that was, whether it was a formal part of the curriculum or not or just something the teacher wanted to cover. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a test on it.

    I keep coming back to some way of letting 16 and 17 year olds have a limited form of voting (like electorate only). But then the question is “why”, and also “well if they’re not going to get a full vote, why bother giving them anything?” I don’t really have sensible answers to those questions.

    A lot of adults are uninformed idiots as well. I don’t have any solution to that problem either.

  10. Herodotus 10

    As under the law under 18 year olds are unable to sign contracts obtain credit cards or do the time for the crime, required to have an adult present when questioned by the police, require parential consent regarding medical operations, not be able to enter into marriage. Why are they now by some being pushed to be able to vote. You are either an adult and capable of making adult decisions in all aspects of life or you are to young.
    So I hope Sue will be pushing for 16 & 17 year olds to be treated in ALL aspects of live as an adult NO exceptions.

  11. A foetus 11

    gimme the vote you fuckers !

  12. Hilary 12

    Some of these comments above would not be out of place in 1892 before women won the vote, or in the early 1970s when it was still at 21.

    • Lanthanide 12.1

      But I agree with giving women the vote, and I think 18 is a better age than 21.

      That doesn’t mean I should also be in favour of dropping it to 16-17. The question then becomes, why stop at 16?

      Actually one thing I would be in favour of: you’re eligible to vote if you turn 18 within the same calendar year as the election is held. So people who turn 18 on the 31st of Dec will still be able to vote.

      I missed out on voting in 2002 because HC held the election early.

  13. gingercrush 13

    I’m all for it. If 16 and 17 year olds want to vote then they should be allowed to do so. My only concern would be there is already difficult getting 18-24 year olds to be enrolled. Therefore, for 16 and 17 year olds don’t make it mandatory to be enrolled and if you are 16 or 17 and you do wish to vote you must be enrolled early.

  14. Afewknowthetruth 14

    In traditiional indigenous societies only those who have white hair are regarded as having sufficient wisdom to make important decisions for the tribe. And they are required to consider the effect any decision they make will have on the seventh generation to come. In some traditional socieites only women had the vote, and they elected men as ‘guardians of the future’.

    The problem with our present system is that uninformed fools have to right to vote for uninformed fools, opportunists and saboteurs, most of whom are mostly working to the agendas of money-lenders and corporations. Altering the voting age will not alter that state of affairs.

    One way round the problem would be for every potential voter to sit an eligibility test that establishes their capability to make an informed choice. We could well find that many 16-year-olds are beter informed than so-called adults, and better able to make informed choices about the future, though I suspect the majority of 16-year-olds would be fairly clueless.

    By the same token every political candidate should be required to pass an eligibility test to demonstrate they have the knowledge and skill necessary to govern properly. That test should include scientific and mathematical literacy -something sadly lacking amongst our so-called leaders at the moment.

    Let’s face it, 80% of current voters would fail such a test. since most have no idea what or who they are voting for and don’t particularly care, and I am sure more that 80% of current politicians are worse than useless. That is exactly why NZ is in such a dreadful mess (along with most other so-called ‘democratic’ nations).

    As have pointed out on numerous occasons, it is the young people of this (and other nations) who are going to pay the horrendous price for the profligacy and stupidity of their elders, who have been in power or are currently in power: the youngsters will have to cope with attempting to live on a resource-depleted planet that is undergoing abrupt climate change and collapse of the food system.

    Each day that passes brings the day of reckoning closer for the criminals and clowns currently in power.

    However, it’s all rather esoteric, since the system is so close to point of collapsing nothing can alter the outcome at this late stage in the game. The only thing we can affect is the degree of suffering: permaculture gardens or riot police, tanks and gas canisters to quell the masses?


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    2 weeks ago
  • Report back from Hands Off Our Tamariki hui
    This week I attended a hui in Otaki organised by Hands Off Our Tamariki about the proposed reforms to the Child Young Persons and their Families Act. Moana Jackson and Paora Moyle spoke.  They expressed deep, profound concern about the proposed ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour mourns passing of Helen Kelly
    Helen Kelly was a passionate advocate for working New Zealanders and for a safe and decent working life, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says.  “Helen Kelly spent her adult life fighting for the right of every working person to ...
    2 weeks ago
  • National’s visionless immigration policy
    National’s recent immigration announcement is a continuation of the visionless approach to government that it has displayed in the last three terms. Rather than using the levers of government to implement a sustainable immigration policy that benefits new and current ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    2 weeks ago
  • Andrew Little: Speech to the Police Association Conference 2016
    Police Association delegates, Association life members and staff, representatives from overseas jurisdictions. Thank you for inviting me here today. The Police Association has become a strong and respected voice for Police officers and for policing in New Zealand. There is ...
    2 weeks ago
  • 1,000 more police for safer communities
    Labour will fund an extra 1,000 Police in its first term to tackle the rising rate of crime, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “Labour will put more cops on the beat to keep our communities safe. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Call for all-party round table on homelessness
    Labour is calling on the Government to take part in a roundtable meeting to hammer out a cross-party agreement on ending homelessness.  Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the country wanted positive solutions to homelessness, and wanted the political parties ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Seclusion rooms in schools
    Schools are undoubtedly stretched and underfunded to cope with students with high learning support needs. But this cannot justify the use of rooms (or cupboards) as spaces to forcibly isolate children. It has emerged via media that this practice continues ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    2 weeks ago
  • Public should get a say on new Waikato power station
    I had an opinion piece published in the Waikato Times about a controversial proposal to build a new gas-fired power station. It’s not on their website yet, so here it is: If you think the public would get a say ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    2 weeks ago
  • MSD and their investment approach
    The Government talks about investment but there is no investment. It is not investment if it isn’t over the whole of life and if there is no new money  — Shamubeel Eaqub   Investment sounds like adequate resourcing but this ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Certainty needed for community services
    A couple of months ago I was at a seminar where three community organisations were presenting. Two of the three presenters were waiting to find out if their organisation would get a contract renewed with MSD. Not knowing if their ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Domestic Violence – some advice for the media
    For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to use Domestic Violence (DV) as a proxy for intimate partner violence. DV is not isolated to physical abuse in a relationship between people with the same power. DV is a pattern of ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Leroy’s New Paw Prints
    Leroy, an Auckland great dane recently received a new 3D printed bionic leg after cancer was discovered. I think this is a fantastic story and highlights the real potential of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing Leroy’s prosthetic was printed in titanium and was ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    2 weeks ago