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The politics of the voting age change

Written By: - Date published: 8:12 pm, November 21st, 2022 - 90 comments
Categories: act, human rights, labour, national - Tags:

The Supreme Court has just lobbed a grenade into New Zealand politics by ruling that denying 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote was not only discrimination on the basis of age but also had not been justified and was therefore a breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

The declaration requested was made.  It is now for Parliament to work out how to deal with the issue.

The Government’s response was swift.  Cabinet today decided that legislation should be introduced into Parliament to see what happens.

The drafting will be interesting.  The age provision in the Electoral Act is entrenched, that is a three quarter majority of MPs is needed.  But the Local Electoral Act provisions are not entrenched so a bare majority is sufficient to pass any necessary changes.

Although the process for a 16 year old to vote in a local body election will be daunting.  My initial impression is that they will have to enroll separately as a residential elector before the election.

National’s and Act’s responses were also swift.

Paul Goldsmith showed how little he knew about the subject by spouting nonsense.

His press statement was also gibberish.  From the National Party website:

National does not support any lowering of the voting age, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Decisions around the voting age, like other electoral laws, are decisions for a democratically accountable Parliament to make.

“Many aspects of our electoral law are decided by referendum or a super-majority of the Parliament because of their constitutional importance.

“National’s priorities in justice are reducing violent, youth and gang crime, as well as clearing Court backlogs.

“With violent crime up by 21 per cent, a 50 per cent increase in gang membership and a 500 per cent increase in ram-raids, these are pressing matters the Labour Government are failing to get under control.

“That is why National announced its plan to crack down on serious repeat youth offenders like ram-raiders to turn their lives around and to protect the public.

“Many other countries have a voting age of 18, and National has seen no compelling case to lower the age.”

The ability of National to bring everything around to youth crime is extraordinary.

Act’s response was even weirder.

“ACT rejects calls to lower the voting age to 16 following the Supreme Court’s ruling,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“We don’t want 120,000 more voters who pay no tax voting for lots more spending. The Supreme Court needs to stick to its knitting and quit the judicial activism.

“Regardless of what the Supreme Court says, the voting age is an entrenched provision in the Electoral Act 1993 so it would require 75 per cent of MPs to vote for the change. In other words, it won’t happen.

“The general public don’t want it either. A 2020 1 News poll found that just 13 per cent of New Zealanders want the age lowered.

“There is nothing stopping 16-year-olds from getting involved in politics already if they’re so inclined and ACT encourages them to do so. The more political savvy and tuned in people are when they do become eligible to vote the better.

“My proposition to 16 and 17 year old voters is this. There’s only a two out of three chance that you’ll get an extra vote out of this, but you will pay extra tax for whatever crazy thing 16 and 17 year olds voted for at the last election.

“If Parliament does consider lowering the voting age ACT will be voting against it.”

Lots of 16 and 17 year olds pay tax.  And to accuse the supreme court in the land of judicial activism when it is interpreting laws that Parliament has made is populist nonsense.

There are some serious constitutional issues at play here and for the right to come out and summarily rule change out is typical but at the same time highly disrespectful.  I hope young people remember the contempt that Act showed when considering in the future the exercise of their democratic rights.

90 comments on “The politics of the voting age change ”

  1. woodart 1

    act are dancing on a pinhead (again) .if they were to practice what they preach, they would be for lowering the voting age. seymour should be hounded on this .libertarians = .bollocks.drive a wedge between act and the nats over this.

  2. DS 2

    NZBORA needs to go. Of all the many evils of the Fourth Labour Government (why, you think it a coincidence that this nonsense descends from that regime?), it might be the most recently insidious.

  3. lprent 3

    Lots of 16 and 17 year olds pay tax.

    I was paying income tax since at least when I was 15. That was when I started doing casual work in factories in the evening shift and weekends. Did school during the weeks daytime.

    I was probably paying tax earlier when I was delivering the Auckland Star.

    Of course these days everyone who earns money pays at least one form of tax. GST covers almost all goods and services and is a 15% tax and it is completely age agnostic.

    Probably the doctrinaire elitist part (ACT) just meant that they didn't pay property taxes like rates like in the good old days that they remember so fondly.

    Of course I know remember quite a number of kids who were paying their own rent at age 15, 16 or 17. I know that I was.

    I can think of a lot of reasons for not having the vote at a young age. However taxes are not one of them.

    I also know that David Seymour probably needs to do a civic or economics class and to learn about the actual tax structure in NZ and who pays them. He always sounds like he is just clueless about how NZ actually operates.

    • woodart 3.1

      seymour comes across as someone who is new to the planet, and all he knows has been learnt from an out-of-date textbook. the inconsistencies in his utterings are outrageous. wants to cuddle up to conservatives ,but claims to be a freethinker . its past time for the media to call him out.

    • Mike the Lefty 3.2

      When I did a paper run in the early 70s I don't think I was taxed, although I earned something like $8 week. Sounds pitiful but wasn't bad money for a child then.

      Taxing kids, including kid's bank accounts is a nasty little remnant of Rogernomics and it is one of my biggest beefs with Labour that they have never scrapped it.

      "No taxation without representation" – isn't that one of the Magna Carta principles?

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    An entire gender (women) was prohibited for centuries and decades from voting in various countries that ran what would be recognised today as elections.
    Sometimes male non property holders did not get to vote either, or indigenous people.

    This historical woman ban as well as being an obvious strategy to enforce male property rights–in all respects–was enforced on a “competency to vote” argument, just as opponents are laying on 16-18 year olds now. Women were viewed as lesser. Some seem to think 16-18 year olds are lesser also.

    Yet, kids, pre teens and teens in 2022 via the shift to a digital world, have access to immense information and knowledge and interaction. Teens do work and pay taxes–so it obvious what the next point is–“no taxes without representation”.

    Natzos and ACT probably don’t have great principles on any of this, but are likely bricking themselves at the prospect of a hundred thousand odd extra voters rocking up.

    Let ’em vote–no referendum. Use your majority Labour.

    • lprent 4.1

      Looks like you need a civics lesson as well. Or simply to read the post.

      The age provision in the Electoral Act is entrenched, that is a three quarter majority of MPs is needed.

      A simple majority cannot change the voting rules for general elections.

      Of course as I remember it, a simple majority could change the Electoral Act to get rid of entrenchment provisions. However I and probably most voters would reward them with a vote to their opposition.

      • Tiger Mountain 4.1.1

        I read that, and understand the realpolitik of it. I was merely urging Labour to do what you advise against! go for broke, Nats would be up against it trying to overturn voting for 16-18s after it was legislated for…because with every boomer funeral the political landscape shifts.

        Some changes become entrenched like no smoking rules and gay rights, and others seem perpetually up for grabs–such as worker and union rights.

        Labour should have been similarly bold on the narrow “nope” Cannabis Referendum result, and more proactive in support.

        • James Simpson


          Certain electoral laws are entrenched for a very good reason. Those laws are the basis of our democracy and can't be the prize for the government of the day.

          If the current government got rid of the entrenchment provisions, (which they technically can do), what do you think the next National government would do. They would make changes to electoral law that favour them using this as the precedent.

          To change this a popular movement needs to push the Nats into getting on board.

          • Tiger Mountain

            Agree with your last sentence at least. I have been advancing for years on The Standard that ordinary working class people need to become politically engaged again, in numbers, at a community organising level.

            I practice what I post about, and am always up to something at street, regional, union, and international solidarity level.

        • lprent

          If you want to change the Electoral Act as a whole, then I'm certain that you could not get a majority of this house to do it. You don't have to look to the right of the political spectrum for that.

          Offhand, I can think of a lot of Labour and Green MPs who'd I'd bet would vote against changing the voting age in that way. I'm sure that you can as well.

          I wouldn't vote for overturning 5 of the 6 instances of entrenchment for a reason something that hasn't been robustly debated in parliament or referendum. At this point I can only guess at the arguments.

          As the supreme court points out in the judgement, parliament effectively hasn't debated the minimum age for voting since putting s21 s12 into NZBORA, and the debate then wasn't particularly robust or clear about why that inconsistency of explicit age discrimination was voted in there.

      • Roy Cartland 4.1.2

        Surely changes to entrenchment are entrenched as well, or at least should be?

        • lprent

          Nope. They are specific to the provisions in the Electoral Act (and one in the Constitution Act). There is no entrenchment on simply removing the whole of the current Electoral Act itself and replacing it with another act.

          Could be argued several ways and the arguments for and against are convoluted. Certainly the entrenched provisions would provide a sufficient kernel to form considerable opposition around. However they are primarily there to ensure considerable debate.

          The specific reason for entrenchment in the Electoral Act was to protect the voting rights for those who already had them.

          On the whole, I can't see a way around bypassing entrenchment. Ultimately there are no unassailable laws that cannot change as circumstances change

          There are a list of entrenched provisions in this page.


          The entrenched provisions weren't intended as a barrier to prevent extension of the mandate to other voters. In particular not there to prevent debate on extensions of the mandate. That is pretty clear after you read the supreme court ruling.

          But the heart of the ruling was the inconsistency in NZBORA between the age of 16 after which its provisions against discrimination applied, and the age of 18 in s12 that was added after the legislation was amended.

          The courts are obliged to show where Parliament has caused a inconsistency between the laws and the NZBORA. The reality is that NZBORA should be amended to be consistent (ie making the age of protection against discrimination as an adult to be 18), or the restriction in s12 should be amended. The latter would also forced the electoral act to be amended.

          Pointing out the inconsistency in the NZBORA was supported by all members of the supreme court including Kos and needed to be pushed back to parliament to deal with. I'd agree with them.

        • AB

          No – that would lead to an infinite regression of clauses entrenching other clauses that entrench other clauses, etc.

  5. Incognito 5

    Presumably, David Seymour meant income tax because as far as I know nobody is exempt from paying GST based on age, for example. However, as pointed out, even then he is incorrect and wrong.

    ACT’s garbled press releases sound more and more like those juvenile pieces from the Taxpayers’ Onion.

    On a different note, the slight irony is that at least in the medium-short term allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote is likely to lower voter turnout statistics in relative terms (%) even though more people overall may vote.

    • Mac1 5.1

      I'd suspect that there is an amount of fear involved in reaction to this proposal.

      Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing control. Fear of the new. Fear of losing the 'age is wisdom and experience' axiom.

      Discussion on Nat Rad yesterday brought up the point that the 200,000 strong 16,17 year old cohort would most likely vote like their parents, and therefore not influence the general outcome, which is another fear expressed.

      At 16 I was politically aware and informed. I did vote like my father in 1969 as a twenty year old, but then I still vote the same way now, even when he has been dead for twenty years.

      In 1967 at age 17 I joined the University branch of the NZLP. I was aware of the great issues of the time- Vietnam, apartheid, foreign bases, agricultural chemicals, voting age, educational inequality (students were hugely middle class), social inequality, the need for unions, poor working conditions.

      I had worked and paid taxes as a cleaner, a coal trimmer and as a shop assistant. I had been entrusted with being to manage by myself short term a Woolworths back store and as a caregiver for intellectually handicapped kids.

      I attended political meetings, street corner and in large halls, joined unions, been a student politician, and at 18 attended the Peace, Power and Politics in Asia conference, travelling to Wellington.

      Who's to say I wasn't qualified to vote?

      Who can say that now, justifiably, of our 16-17 year olds?

      Or do we fear their idealism?

      • Incognito 5.1.1

        But they are just kids, right?

        Some kids would indeed vote like their parents, for obvious reasons, I guess. But I do suspect that many young people feel more rebellious, idealistic (and ‘radical’), and anti-status quo than perhaps in the past. The internet and global/planetary awareness are almost alienating compared to my younger days.

        My voting preferences have changed immensely from when I was young, as have my personal circumstances and outlook on life. Coincidentally, I read this very interesting piece just a few days ago:


        I started earning at 16 when I was still at school and it was actually good money. I have done many interesting jobs (including cleaning in a hospital, which was literally a shit job) and met many more interesting people. It was an eye opener bordering on transformative and I still have fond memories of those relatively innocent times.

        At that age, I was not politically aware/awake, as I’ve always been a terrible late-bloomer. Voting won’t be for every 16 and 17 year old, but I’m ok with giving them the option and leave it up to them to take it or not. It might help shake up things a little and get a breath of fresh air in and where’s the harm in that?

        • Anne

          "I’ve always been a terrible late-bloomer. Voting won’t be for every 16 and 17 year old, …"

          I can relate to that Incognito. I was a late-bloomer full stop. At the age of 16 and 17 I would not have voted. My instincts tell me most 16 and 17 year old(s) today are no different. But there is always a vociferous minority in any issue who make a lot of noise.

          Doesn't bother me.

          If they want to vote early let them, but don't bully those who don't want to, or who don't feel ready. That is my concern.

  6. Ghostwhowalksnz 6

    Kos gives his legal reasoning

    [74]' I consider the explicit right to vote in parliamentary elections at 18 years, affirmed by s 12 of the Bill of Rights (and prescribed in the Electoral Act), prevails over the generalised right to freedom from discrimination affirmed by s 19.'

    So the Bill of Rights already prescribes the voting age as 18

    12 Electoral rights

    Every New Zealand citizen who is of or over the age of 18 years—

    (a)has the right to vote in genuine periodic elections of members of the House of Representatives, which elections shall be by equal suffrage and by secret ballot; and

    (b)is qualified for membership of the House of Representatives.

    Interesting judicial gymnastics where they ignore the plain text of the act in order to create a new declaration about voting age

    • lprent 6.1

      It isn't convoluted at all.

      The key part of the ruling was directed at raising the inconsistency in NZBORA to parliament where age (and other attributes) discrimination was set at age 16, but then proceeds in s12 to embed a inconsistency. This was done with very limited debate in 1993 and without providing coherent explanation about the reasons why the inconsistency was introduced.

      Pointing out legislative inconsistency with NZBORA and legislation is requirement inside NZBORA. Pointing out legislative inconsistency with NZBORA is as well.

      The only real objection that Kos raised in their following discussion was the entrenchment in the Electoral Act of age 18 for nationwide elections. Which seems like a convoluted way of trying to find a valid sounding reason rather than providing a argument worth arguing. It is inherently recursive.

      Besides Kos, also said

      [75] I agree however with the majority that a declaration of inconsistency must be made in relation to the provisions of the Local Electoral Act 2001. Those provisions stand alone, unaffected (and unprotected) by s 12. They are inconsistent with s 19, and the Attorney-General does not attempt to justify the inconsistency under s 5.

      Which really makes the Kos position clear that the only real sticking point for national elections is a political one. Getting politicians to either change the Electoral Act (requires 75% parliamentary majority), or change NZBORA (50%) to make them consistent. Or fix the Local Government Act (50%) to be consistent with s19 of NZBORA.

      In all cases ithe court is doing its required job under NZBORA – pointing out a inconsistency in the law.

      Or we can have a referendum where the robust debate will be in the voting public (50%).

  7. tsmithfield 7

    Since this change would be a fundamental change to our voting system, I think the appropriate thing to do is to put it to a binding referendum. That way it takes all the politics out of it.

    • AB 7.1

      Seems reasonable – but would 16 and 17-year-olds get to vote in the referendum? If they did get to vote, is that already assuming the conclusion, if they don't, is that also assuming the conclusion? Either way – there's a troubling element of circularity in the process.

      • tsmithfield 7.1.1

        I agree with the circularity argument which is a difficult one to get around. Then again, a lot of those voting would have off-spring or relations in that age group and would therefore likely take their views into account when voting.

        But this would be better than leaving it to parliament where I understand a 75% majority is required. That hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell in getting through.

        The left side of the house would love to have the younger voters as younger voters tend to be perceived as more left leaning. Whereas the right side of the house would vote against for the same reason.

        So, a referendum seems like the only option likely to deliver what the voters think should happen, which is the way it should be.

        • Louis

          "Media: Should it really be up to politicians to decide or should you take it to a referendum?

          PM: Ultimately, well, you could equally argue that in referendum, those who the law affects also don’t get to have a say. At least in Parliament, we have the provisions in place and it requires—electoral law requires—a majority, a supermajority. So, regardless, you’d see it coming back before Parliament"


          • tsmithfield

            And, so there it will die a natural death, falling to political interests rather than listen to the voting public who at least might be a bit more fair-minded and less invested in a particular outcome.

            • Louis

              Did you not understand the quote? imo no, it wont die a natural death, it may have a greater chance of passing if it goes through the house than through a referendum.

              • tsmithfield

                75% majority in parliament is required. There is no chance this will go through.

                Labour putting a bill up indicates they know this, and want to avoid responsibility for the inevitable "no".

                I think a referendum has a much better chance. Firstly, there are a lot of voters not that far out of that age group. Secondly, a lot of people have family members who would be near the 16 year old age range.

                So, a referendum would likely get much fairer consideration than many may think. The pro's and con's could be publically debated, and any decision would have a lot more credibility than decisions from parliamentarians who have their vested interests.

                • Louis

                  Disagree with your opinion and Labour is acting on the Supreme court's ruling. There are some bills that would never have passed if they had been put to a referendum, for example Same sex marriage (77 votes to 44) and homosexual law reform.

                  To repeat: "in referendum, those who the law affects also don’t get to have a say. At least in Parliament, we have the provisions in place and it requires—electoral law requires—a majority, a supermajority. So, regardless, you’d see it coming back before Parliament"

                  • tsmithfield

                    It is a distraction from 3 Waters I guess. So the government would be happy about that.

                    Either way, it is not going anywhere. I suspect issues like same sex marriage would have had much stronger public support than the voting age. So, much less risk for politicians voting that sort of issue in.

                    Whatever happens, the voting age isn’t dropping anytime soon.

                    • Louis

                      No, it is not a distraction from Three Waters. I seriously doubt that same sex marriage would have had stronger public support. You don't know the future, you don't know what's going to happen, that's an assumption on your part. btw, if it does pass, the voting age wouldn’t be lowered for next year’s election anyway.

                    • tsmithfield

                      Prior to becoming law around 50% supported the change for same sex marriage. As I said, this level of support made it much easier for politicians to vote for the change.

                      Compare that to the several polls on the voting age linked to on this thread. The vast majority of the voting population are against the change. Have a look at the 2020 Colmar Brunton Poll that Swordfish links to below. According to that poll only 13% support the change.

                      Do you really think politicians are going to vote against the tide of public opinion to that extent?

                      As I said, the voting age isn't going to change soon because there simply won't be the political will to vote for an issue that is essentially a solution looking for a problem.

                    • Louis

                      Same sex marriage didn't always have that level of support though, over time opposition decreased. If the majority of the public is against lowering the voting age, then a referendum is the last thing you would want, you have a better shot if it goes through the house, where it will be put to a vote. Start lobbying your mp tsmithfield.

                      As I have already mentioned, even if it did pass, it wouldn't affect this year's election anyway.

                    • tsmithfield

                      I agree. But the support for same sex marriage had been around that level for quite a few years, according to that link.

                      I am not saying the voting age will never move to 16. I just don't see it happening in the near future. By that I mean, I don't think it is going to happen in the next 10 years.

                      I think the first thing that would need to happen is a change in public opinion. And then the politicians will fall into line.

                    • Louis

                      Who knows what the future will hold. Change doesn't happen without a fight and often it's a long fight ie same sex marriage and homosexual law reform.

  8. mary_a 8

    If 16-17 year olds are required by law to pay tax on earnings, thereby contributing to the country, then they are entitled to vote. No argument.

    NACT need to acknowledge this fact!

    • Incognito 8.1

      Tying tax to voting rights is a slippery slope, IMO. They are separate things. However, the simplistic reasoning, mostly RW, seems to be that if you pay income tax you have earned the right to have a say in how it is spent, i.e., you have earned voting rights. This is analogous but not identical to shareholder rights and it reduces everything, including the democratic political process, to ownership and earnings. Being a stakeholder and member of a nation/society is so much more than that and contribution to the country is not and cannot be measured in just earnings & PAYE.

    • Terry 8.2

      Maybe our votes could be weighted depending on how much tax we paid.

      Therefore higher income earners would have more votes than a lower income earner.

    • Craig H 8.3

      Children and young people under 18 have a tax exemption of $2,340/yr (this is $200/yr otherwise) while they are at school (as in, enrolled, regardless of actual attendance) so things like babysitting and neighbourhood lawnmowing aren't taxed unless they are larger scale.

      However, anyone of any age who works for a PAYE-registered employer is required to pay tax on any amount of earnings as of 2012 (it was introduced by National), which is why young newspaper deliverers suddenly started paying taxes at the time.

      I agree with Incognito that tying tax to voting is a slippery slope, but on the plus side of the ledger for 16-17 year olds, they can leave school, move out of home and take up full-time work, so perhaps that's a better metric than just paying tax.

  9. Corey Hummcampus 9

    They don't want voters who don't pay tax? Shit then national and act don't want tax dodging rich pricks voting for them!

    National and Act telling their youth wings that they hate them. We don't want you voting but you can deliver our pamphlets and canvas for us.

    Act saying young people pay no tax despite the youth rates national and act inflicted on young people.

    These pricks raised taxes on newsies! (Well paper rounds but still)

    David Seymour may never have had a real job outside of politics since he's been standing since like 2002, and the nats privileged kids may not have jobs but they don't speak for all sixteen year olds.

    Its funny that the right is in favor of taxation without representation, but then again many of their voters find loopholes to pay as little tax as possible.

    The right doesn't appeal to young people cos of shit like this, they don't seem to care about the fact that by locking gen z gen y and gen x out of the housing market you're locking three generations out of your voting base. People only get conservative when they get older if they own a house and an asset, cheap home ownership should be nationals number one priority, without it the right is doomed, even Thatcher got this, that's why she brought herself a new voting base.

    National poisoning young people from voting from them is something to be encouraged.

    • weka 9.1

      cool new user name, but better to revert to your usual one 😉

    • tsmithfield 9.2

      It isn't the smart move to vote against the issue without offerring anything else.

      The smart move is to vote against the bill on the grounds that it is an issue that should be put to the public on the basis of a referendum. And that National/Act would support a referendum on the issue at the next election.

      So, not an outright "no". But, given public opinion on the issue, might as well be.

  10. Chris 10

    "…was not only discrimination on the basis of age but also had not been justified and was therefore a breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990."

    For something to be discriminatory under the Act it must not only be prima facie discriminatory, but also unjustified. It's not possible for something to be discriminatory merely on a prima facie basis, but justified. The entitlement age for NZS is a good example: clearly discriminatory on a prima facie basis, yet clearly justified on policy grounds, equals no discrimination.

    • Belladonna 10.1

      Discussion on Nat Rad last night, involving the lawyer involved in the case, made the point that the Government didn't make any attempt to introduce the 'justification' into the case – hence the Judge awarded against them – and therefore in favour of the 'Make it 16' campaign. If they had presented a case for a justified age of 18 for voting – the outcome might well have been different.

      [NB: my understanding as a non-lawyer of a once-over-lightly interview]

    • Jimmy 10.2

      Court decision would have been the same if it was proposed that 8 year olds vote.

      • Leighton 10.2.1

        No the decision would not have been the same if it was about 8 year olds, because the Human Rights Act provision about age discrimination only applies to those 16 and older.

        • Chris

          It also would've been unjustified. Assessments like these almost invariably involve value judgements, so a case like this necessarily involves drawing a line between ages. The outcome will always depend on the context, nature of the subject matter etc.

  11. woodart 11

    on a related topic, are prisoners allowed to vote?prisoners on remand BEFORE trial. i.e. not guilty of anything? custodial vs home D? multiple property owners in different councils, do they get more than one vote in local body elections? the list of exceptions to voting rights are not small.

    • Craig H 11.1

      Prisoners are allowed to vote unless their sentence is 3 years or longer or life/preventive detention, or they are compulsorily detained for 3 years or longer instead of imprisonment or a trial (e.g. criminally insane), or under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act.

      Remand prisoners and criminals on home detention can vote.

      Under local government electoral legislation, ratepayer electors can vote in each district they own property in outside their residential district based on their address on the Parliamentary Electoral Roll, but only one ratepayer per property, and only once per election, per district. For example, a ratepayer who lives in Christchurch and owns 3 houses in Christchurch and 1 in Selwyn could complete one voting paper in Christchurch as a residential elector i.e. in the ward based on where they are registered for the Parliamentary roll, and one in Selwyn based on the address of that property.

  12. Drowsy M. Kram 12

    Weren't the votes in the NZ House of Representatives and the Legislative Council, to extend voting rights to include women, simple majority votes? Why so timid in 2022?

    Women and the vote
    Page 2 – Brief history

    Victory at last

    In April 1893 Ballance died and was succeeded by Seddon. Suffragists’ hearts sank, but following the presentation of the massive third petition, another bill was easily passed in the House.

    Once again, all eyes were on the Legislative Council. Liquor interests petitioned the council to reject the bill. Suffragists responded with mass rallies and a flurry of telegrams to members. They also gave their supporters in Parliament white camellias to wear in their buttonholes.

    Seddon and others again tried to torpedo the bill by various underhand tactics, but this time their interference backfired. Two opposition councillors, who had previously opposed women's suffrage, changed their votes to embarrass Seddon. On 8 September 1893 the bill was passed by 20 votes to 18.

    The battle was still not over. New anti-suffrage petitions were circulated, and some members of the Legislative Council petitioned the governor to withhold his consent. In a battle of the buttonholes, anti-suffragists gave their parliamentary supporters red camellias to wear.

    Finally, on 19 September, Lord Glasgow signed the bill into law. All women who were 'British subjects' and aged 21 and over, including Māori, were now eligible to vote (the nationhood requirement excluded some groups, such as Chinese women).

    • Belladonna 12.1

      Electoral act 1993 – provision for amendments to the franchise require 75% of the house to vote in favour (specifically covered in Section 74)


      Several commenters have explained up-thread about why this entrenchment is a good idea.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 12.1.1

        “A good idea” now (for stability / anti-corruption reasons?), but (presumably) not in 1893, when such an idea might have resulted in NZ women being denied the vote for decades, if not until the Legislative Council was abolished on 1 January 1951.

        Just a curiosity of history I guess. Was the rationale for 75% that, by 1993, Kiwis had all the major voting franchise kinks worked out? Maybe not, if the recent Supreme Court ruling is anything to go by.

        In 1996 NZ had it’s first MMP election, so election results are fairer and more representative than they used to be, although some think there’s still room for improvement.

    • Craig H 12.2

      Evolution of views and philosophies on protection of the franchise over time, one suspects. Also the existence of two Houses of Parliament made it harder in theory to ram through major changes like that.

  13. Tiger Mountain 13

    lprent posted the money shot above…

    Which really makes the Kos position clear that the only real sticking point for national elections is a political one. Getting politicians to either change the Electoral Act (requires 75% parliamentary majority), or change NZBORA (50%) to make them consistent. Or fix the Local Government Act (50%) to be consistent with s19 of NZBORA.

    In all cases ithe court is doing its required job under NZBORA – pointing out a inconsistency in the law.

    Or we can have a referendum where the robust debate will be in the voting public (50%).

    Perhaps with the rest of the political shit show we are all dealing with, further voting age action will have to wait for the period post 2023 and leading up to 2026. Perhaps…be good if it did not. Many thousands of additional potential votes should be too compelling for any political strategist to resist.

    But as some have alluded to, opportunism can come back to bite. But social change moves on, not in a linear way necessarily, but this is an opportunity to engage the new gens rather than be grumpy old men.

    Some of the resistance here against a militant take on lowering voting age is reminiscent of the US Democrats timidity–but… but… the Filibuster…

  14. Maurice 14

    At present a person one day away from 18 must wait three years – till one day under 21 – to be able to vote.

    So that for each three-yearly election a rather large swath wait till wait for from three years to one day after their 18th Birthday to vote in a General Election.

    A four year term would extend that to a maximum of one day under 22 …

    • alwyn 14.1

      And if we drop the age to 16, and extend the term to 4 years we will have a rather large swath who will have to wait for 4 years after their 16th birthday to vote.

      Well tough luck. Whatever age you choose there are people who are going to have to wait until the next election after they come of age, whatever the age.

  15. Leighton 15

    Act's position is ideologically inconsistent. How can a libertarian party justify supporting arbitrary legislative restrictions on the right to participate in the national democracy? It seems that the rationale is no more sophisticated than "removing the unjustified discrimination will make it harder for the right to win, therefore it is bad/judicial activism"

    • woodart 15.1

      quite correct leighton. act should be hammered on this, and made to explain how a libertarian party can be so authoritarian, and against progress. no amount of twerking will get seymour out of this.

  16. swordfish 16


    Meanwhile … let’s take a bit of an old gander at the view of the Public (y'know, that really yukky, icky thing called democracy that gets in the way of an affluent middle-class cadre getting their own way at all times).

    This Oct 2020 1 News Colmar Brunton poll is the only polling on the issue I could find (although I have a vague recollection that Curia conducted a poll on the issue in recent years).

    Huge majority opposed .. won't have changed greatly in 2 years.

    Would expect a similar level of public opposition to any attempts to start disenfranchising older voters … people will see it for the ruthlessly self-interested gerrymandering that it is.

    • Belladonna 16.1

      Curia poll referenced here – 28th October 2022 – 79% opposed.


    • Tiger Mountain 16.2

      “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
      –VI Lenin

      I don’t expect quick progress necessarily on extending the voting age to 16-18s. The reflexive position for many NZers seems certainly “what the…” due to age prejudice and not thinking it through. The Court decision on technical matters has opened a window which any advisor earning their pay would leap through

      Same with the Cannabis Referendum, there has to be a supportive narrative. Which wowsers like Andrew Little, Jacinda keeping her trap shut, COVID, and a US Lobby group https://publicaddress.net/hardnews/cannabis-who-owns-say-nope-to-dope-anyway/?fbclid=IwAR138Tu2RlGLq0b1813vVbtO4VwtxdeneVfxC3T0kLKD25YTpX9WaDfGRqY breaking the spending limit, wobbled things just enough.

      Not so long ago a whole gender, roughly half the population, was excluded from voting. Now women voting is accepted in many countries, and NZ was the first. Males that did not own property were judged not worthy of a vote in some countries, ditto indigenous people at various stages.

      Some sarcastic remarks have been made about testing voting competency for older people…but really universal suffrage for all people of agreed age is where it is at. And 16-18 is increasingly likely to be that new agreed age one way or another thanks to the appeal decision.

    • swordfish 16.3


      The graphic I posted in above comment (16) seems to have disappeared … so the relevant figures are:

      1 News Colmar Brunton (Oct 2020):

      Q: Do you think the voting age should be reduced to sixteen years of age ?

      Yes 13%

      No 85%

      DK 2%

      Those more likely than average to choose the Yes option were Green voters & respondents in their 30s.

      • Robert Guyton 16.3.1

        "Those more likely than average to choose the Yes option were Green voters & respondents in their 30s."

        Because, kind, understanding, generous, accepting, wise 🙂

  17. Mike the Lefty 17

    It strikes me that the question of 16 and 17 year olds getting the vote is similar to the original question of extending the voting franchise in 19th century Britain.

    But once the franchise was extended – first to the middle classes and eventually to the working classes (and women!) every party wanted to make sure THEY got the extra votes.

    It will be similar here. The diehards (National and ACT) will oppose it as much as the Tories did in 1832 but once it becomes reality they will behave as though it was their own idea.

    By the way we shouldn't assume that the new voters would all be left-leaning and totally concerned about climate change. Take a look at students councils around the country now – they are filled with privileged jumped-up little right wing pillocks – not the lefty radicals of a few decades ago.

  18. Jenny are we there yet 18

    National does not support any lowering of the voting age, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

    Translation: National does not support any expansion of democracy.

  19. Right is right 19

    Well if they are seen as fully competent adults at 16 years old, the drinking and smoking laws have to change to allow them to drink and smoke as well. Can't be mature enough to have a say in who runs the country but not mature enough to decide to drink or smoke.

    • Muttonbird 19.1

      Looked at the username and knew the comment would be something inane.

      In youth you probably want to encourage voting but discourage drinking and smoking, don't you think?

      • Right is right 19.1.1

        100% agree with you. But you cannot say you are old enough to vote, but not mature or old enough to decide if you want to drink or smoke. Double standards I would think.

        • observer

          And yet every day there are complaints that young offenders are sent to Youth Court or Youth Aid. Too soft, lock 'em up, etc, etc.

          The age of criminal responsibility is 10. Do you want it raised?

          • Right is right

            Well if you can vote at 16, then you should be tried in a court of law as a grown up. Can't cry to be a kid when it suits you. You are either mature enough or not for all aspects of life.

    • Craig H 19.2

      There are certainly arguments that can be made comparing the two activities and therefore the maturity required of each. On the other hand, voting is a constitutional matter specifically acknowledged as a human right in NZ while drinking alcohol isn't either of those, and people drinking alcohol create far more havoc on a daily basis that voters casting a vote, so they aren't especially comparable activities for other reasons.

  20. Jenny are we there yet 20

    We are making decisions now about the climate that will effect a large section of our population, who have no say.

    This is not democracy.

    Lowering the voting age to 16 is a must.

    A quick google search reveal that nine countries and territories have 16 as the age of franchise.

    Notably Brazil which has a voting age of 16 and a huge youth demographic. Brazil has just voted in a Left president committed to fighting climate change, who has pledged to stop deforestation in the Amazon.

    This is a win for youth, and future generations. It is also a win for democracy.

  21. Jenny are we there yet 21

    Young people are more connected and aware than ever before.

    Greta Thunberg

    …..Thunberg's activism began when she persuaded her parents to adopt lifestyle choices that reduced their own carbon footprint. In August 2018, at age 15, she started spending her Fridays outside the Swedish Parliament to call for stronger action on climate change by holding up a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (School strike for climate).

    Young people are more intelligent than ever before.

    By Elizabeth Hopper

    Updated on March 16, 2018

    You’ve probably heard someone lament the state of “kids today”: that current generations aren’t as smart as the ones that came before them. However, psychologists who study intelligence have found that there isn’t much support for this idea; instead, the opposite may actually be true…….



  22. Jenny are we there yet 22

    When discussing the age of franchise one of questions we must consider is the low voter turn out for 18 year olds.

    My take on this;

    At age 18 young people are leaving school, they are probably leaving home, they are entering employment or tertiary study, they are paying their own bills often for the first time. They are finding new friends. They are dating, and finding life partners. There's a lot going on.
    Voting and wider society issues are probably way down the ladder of priorities at this stage in life. Voting may be a civic duty that may be overlooked at this age.

    Studies have shown that those who don't vote the first time at that they given the chance to vote, continue this pattern, continue not to vote the next time they given the chance the chance.

    Before 18 life is more settled, more chance to discuss the issues of the day with their peers and their parents. Once they habit of voting is started hopefully it will continue, even when life becomes more hectic.

    • Peter 22.1

      No argument that "voting may be a civic duty that may be overlooked at this age."

      Probably some other ages too. Very close to 50% from our area voted in our local body elections and that was seen as a triumph by many. Certain factors listed do impact on the lives of 18 year olds. And other factors obviously affect older groups which have them not voting.

  23. Maurice 23

    It will be interesting to see how well Gen Z performs in the future when the steadying influence of the Boomers has gone ……………

  24. SomeNewGuy 24

    Apologies if this has already been brought somewhere but confuses me is the issue of 'age discrimination'. People under 18 cannot legally drink or smoke (or at least buy) cigarettes. Can't perform active duty in the military or marry without parental approval.

    Is that all considered age discrimination?

    Genuine question…

    • Jenny are we there yet 24.1

      "People under 18 cannot legally drink or smoke (or at least buy) cigarettes. Can't perform active duty in the military or marry without parental approval." SomeNewGuy

      It's about Harm and Risk

      Unequal power relations between older and younger people make some relations harmful and risky.

      What harm and risk does lowering the voting age to 16 pose?

      This is the question that those opposing lowering the voting age must answer.

      • SomeNewGuy 24.1.1

        I don't oppose nor support a change in voting age but it does open complex legal issues. Someone could quite easily raise the issue, legally, about smoking and drinking being age discrimination. Harm and risk yes but it opens to door for someone to pursue it. Again – I don't have a dog in this fight, just looking at the wider perspective.

        I feel though if you lower the voting age then you also need to lower the age in which people can stand for parliament. Seems silly to have a bloc that can vote but can't run for the same office.

      • Belladonna 24.1.2

        "What harm and risk does lowering the voting age to 16 pose?"

        I don't think that's at all the question.

        Any voting age is an arbitrary cut-off point – with no way to justify it – in an absolute sense.

        Is someone significantly less able to exercise the responsibilities of voting, because their 18th (or 16th) birthday is the day after the election?

        My 14-year-old is considerably more clued-up politically, than most of the 18-year-olds I meet. Why should he be excluded by this proposed new discriminatory cut-off point at 16?

        As a society, we need to determine various thresholds for adult rights and responsibilities – over time these change (the fluctuation of the legal drinking age is a good example).

        We recognize that these decisions are grounded in a gestalt of information and opinion – without being able to point to any single defining factor in the decision-making process (X piece of research on brain function, etc.).

        We also recognize that these decisions are a broad-brush – there are indeed 30-year-olds who have less voting 'capacity' than the teens taking this case to the SC – but the thresholds look to the average, rather than the exceptional.

        It may be time to review the voting age. The appropriate way to ensure that this is a societal decision is via a referendum.

        My personal belief is that there is not widespread popular support for this change – even among those who might gain voting rights.

        • SomeNewGuy

          I would like to see this as a public referendum rather than a law parliament can push through.

          What would be very interesting would be if this went to a public referendum that 16 and 17 year old's could vote also. Would be very interesting to see what they think

          • Jenny are we there yet

            "What would be very interesting would be if this ‘ went to a public referendum that 16 and 17 year old's could vote also. Would be very interesting to see what they think." SomeNewGuy

            Fun fact: Though they are not legally allowed to vote in a general election, 17 year olds are legally entitled to have their name entered on to the electoral roll.

            17 year olds on the electoral roll who wanted to vote in a non binding referendum, (Not a binding general election), over an issue relating to their rights, could with the help of a good lawyer, or team of lawyers make a case against being prevented from entering the voting booth and making their mark. Whether their vote is counted or not. There would be a record of what they think.

            That would be interesting to know.

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