Lower the voting age to 16
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Recently, the voting turnout for New Zealand citizens has been dropping dramatically, particularly among younger age groups. In the last election, 37.25% of enrolled voters from ages 18-24 didn't vote, and neither did 37.89% of enrolled voters between the ages of 25-29. However, only 14.25% of adults over 70 didn't vote. This is a huge problem for our country because it means that the party and prime minister we vote in won’t necessarily represent all New Zealand citizens. If we don’t have diversity among our voters, we won’t have diversity in our government, which will restrict the progression of our country significantly. The citizens of New Zealand, including those under 18, will not benefit from a government that doesn't represent them.
We believe that the low numbers of young people voting is likely the effect of a lack of education around politics and a lack of interest. Because our country runs on a democratic system, those in power have to get there by getting the most votes. It makes sense that they will target those most likely to vote when they make their policies, ie; elderly, middle-class citizens. This discourages many young people from voting because they feel excluded and therefore lose interest in elections.
An obvious solution to this problem is to lower the voting age to 16. We think that this will increase the younger generation’s interest in politics and encourage young people to vote later in their lives, which will heighten the voting turnout and make the range of voters more diverse. If we get young people voting when they're still in school, we can create a safe, unbiased environment for them to learn about politics and the importance of voting so they have experience before they've left home.
It is also important to note here that with the voting age as it is currently, most people don’t get to vote until a few years after they turn 18 because the elections only happen once every three years. If the voting age was lowered to 16, young people would be able to exercise their right to vote as soon as they're an adult/close to adulthood. 16 is generally the age when people start becoming more independent from their parents and make more significant decisions in their lives. They also share many of the same rights and responsibilities as adults, which makes their inability to vote feel incredibly disempowering. Not letting their voices be heard, while still expecting them to live with many of the same laws, rights and consequences as adults, is effectively discouraging them from voting, thus the low youth turnouts at elections.
Many people will argue that 16 year olds are not mature or wise enough to be able to vote, and that lowering the voting age will only make matters worse. But what does that have to do with it? If the right to vote was only one given to those mature and wise, wouldn’t that prevent many adults from voting? If this really is a valid reason, then surely we should have an upper limit on voting as well? We know that this would be terrible solution, because there’d be even less people voting if we did that.
We believe that a lot of young people in this generation are very politically aware and should be trusted in their ability to form their own opinions. There is no solid reasoning for why they are not ready to have this right. It should be everyone’s right to vote, regardless of intelligence or maturity. Ideally, this will create more diverse representation in the New Zealand government, making us a more equal and inclusive country.
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