Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

Read Post

Legal Beagle: Future Leaders for Democracy; or lowering the voting age

22 Responses

  • Hilary Stace,

    There are groups of young people who have always wanted the vote. Been to a liberal secondary school lately? Perhaps you are just not looking in the right places. Go along to the handing over of the clean water petition to parliament today at 1 pm. I'm sure there will be teenagers there keen to vote.

    I have fought for the right to vote since I was about 11 and went to my first protest (with my friend who is now a Green MP). I was not alone. Those were the days when the voting age was 21 yet 18 year olds could be conscripted into Compulsory Military Service. Lowering the voting age was a significant platform of the Kirk government's win. Even older people saw the need. We just had to demand it and eventually 18 became the norm.

    As will a voting age of 12, eventually.

    Today's kids are wise and they know they need to act to save their future. Voting is just one way.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3189 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    There are groups of young people who have always wanted the vote. Been to a liberal secondary school lately? Perhaps you are just not looking in the right places. Go along to the handing over of the clean water petition to parliament today at 1 pm. I'm sure there will be teenagers there keen to vote.

    Well, this was a question. I'm sure there are kids who want to vote, but there don't seem to be anyone actually asking for it. There isn't really even a Facebook group. And if kids don't use Facebook any more, please let me know what they are using :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • onsos,

    The problem with expecting youth to advocate for rights for youth is that the youth themselves rapidly grow up, turn 18, and get the rights that they were fighting for anyway.

    Since May 2011 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Marion Ogier,

    Well "adults" are not setting a very good example that voting is something to be treasured and taken seriously. Look at the sad turnouts at local and national elections. We need to acknowledge that. We also need to recognise that a big part of the problem is lack of education, starting in schools, but also the utter trivialisation of politics and issues through mainstream media is also a huge turnoff. Maybe if we get young people enthused, they will shame more adults into thinking, acting and voting about the things that really matter to us all.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2010 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    The Young Ones…

    And most of all, where are the kids who want to vote? I’m all for lowering the voting age, but I’ve seen little indication that it’s something all that many of them want

    More to the point where is the vehicle for their voice, FaceBook aside there is little outlet for them in the MSM, unless they are ‘celebrities’.

    Young Labour was talking about it (lowering the voting age) back in 2012
    http://younglabour.org.nz/we-have-fun-we-debate-we-cheer-we-campaign
    (but sadly I can’t find any more recent mentions there)
    <edit add> - I just checked the Young Nats site: http://www.youngnats.org.nz/
    lowering the vote doesn't seem to be on their radar at all - in fact they don't even have any issues they are focusing on!

    Initiatives like Rockenrol aimed at getting the currently eligible young to vote …

    …there is a movement in the UK: http://www.votesat16.org/about/

    …and the US has the National Youth Rights Association: http://youthrights.org/issues/voting-age/top-ten-reasons-to-lower-the-voting-age/

    The Chchch Council used to have a Youth Council with some success – there seems to still be one going with some support from the Chch City Council – http://www.chchyouthcouncil.org.nz/ – a voice for youth is most important for Chchch’s future (and the whole country).

    Hopefully things have changed from my days in High School and student activism – once we got movement on hair length and lessening restrictions on uniforms the groundswell of student support dropped away and had no real appetite for the ongoing push for curriculum changes or involvement in governance – Student Councils helped a bit, but were largely illusory input.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7876 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Marion Ogier,

    Look at the sad turnouts at local and national elections. We need to acknowledge that. [...] Maybe if we get young people enthused, they will shame more adults into thinking, acting and voting about the things that really matter to us all.

    Is there reason to think that there might be more engagement and better turnouts, especially with youth, if they were allowed to be more involved and have a say when still at school? If there were genuine reason to think that, then I think it'd be a great argument for lowering the voting age, among whichever others exist.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Thanks for an interesting piece (as always), Graeme.

    I remember feeling quite indignant at university still being some years away from being able to vote, but the fact – as onsos has also pointed out – that any attempt to change the voting age would take years, and involve me being dedicated to and working towards a cause well after the age that I could vote anyway, meant that I just grumbled and waited.

    I wonder how many of the suffragettes would have been so fired up if (by some weird metamorphosis) that knew that women would turn into men in about 18 months time and be able to vote anyway?

    It seemed to me then (and now) that it would be a fairly minor tweak to keep the voting age at 18, but expand the definition so that persons who’d be turning 18 at any point during the forthcoming (nominal) electoral term would be able to cast a vote.

    To put it another way: it does seem particularly unfair that those turning 18 a day or two before an election should have their votes denied when they will be of voting age for almost all of the forthcoming (nominal) electoral term.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to David Haywood,

    It seems simpler to change the voting age from 18 to 15 to accomplish exactly the same result; but what I like about your tweak is that the principle also could be (re)applied to the group of prisoners whose right to vote was removed in 2010 (i.e. those serving a prison sentence with less than three years remaining at the time of the election).
    The same underlying principles apply in both cases: these are people we want to get involved in the process, and who will be directly affected by the actions of the incoming government, at a time when they will be eligible to vote.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1876 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I wouldn’t link it to increased civics education – voting is either a right or it isn’t.

    Whereas I see it being the same sort of right as informed consent is. That applies to adults as well as teens. Where is our life-long investment in civic understanding?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to David Haywood,

    Conversely, if you're not expected to live to the end of next term, remove the ability to vote?

    Or, how about age weighting your vote by your remaining life expectancy?

    If it's the younger people who are less likely to vote, won't lowering the voting age just decrease voter turnout (overall) anyway?

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 499 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Sacha,

    Where is our life-long investment in civic understanding?

    I'm not saying we shouldn't have this. In fact we should have this. But the lack of this should not be used to deny a class of people the vote.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    If it’s the younger people who are less likely to vote, won’t lowering the voting age just decrease voter turnout (overall) anyway?

    It will decrease turnout as a percentage of enrolled voters, and will decrease turnout as a percentage of people of voting age. It will however increase turnout, and increase turnout as a percentage of New Zealand residents.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    We have such a strange range of ages when children become adults in NZ. Every government department or agency seems to have a different one. This seems an urgent area for some serious policy work and while we are at it, lower the voting age.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3189 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    And if kids don't use Facebook any more, please let me know what they are using :-)

    As far as I can tell (I have a fifteen year-old), instagram and tumblr, and they chat on Skype and google chats. All at the same time. There's a bit of facebook, but mostly it's considered "old people". I am forbidden from tagging the teenager on facebook.

    I did ask the teenager a couple of years ago about voting rights, for much the same reason as you: where possible I like to see campaigns led by those affected by the outcome. I got a look. You know, one of those looks that teens and preteens give their parents when their parents are being dull and transparent about trying to interest the youth in something that is interesting to the parent but of pretty much zero interest to the youth.

    Mind you, that was a couple of years ago. I could try asking again.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    A nine-year-old petitioned Parliament for the testing of people driving on foreign drivers licences in New Zealand

    I guess at nine one wouldn’t be too fussed about one consequence of that, which would be that NZers would no longer be able to drive overseas. (There is a reciprocal treaty by which we accept visitors home licenses. Withdraw from that, and our licenses wouldn’t be valid overseas. It takes several months to get a driving test appointment in many countries and most, like the US and UK, only issue licenses to residents).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I guess at nine one wouldn’t be too fussed about one consequence of that, which would be that NZers would no longer be able to drive overseas.

    A lot of adults aren't too fussed either.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    Conversely, if you’re not expected to live to the end of next term, remove the ability to vote?

    I don't see that allowing people to vote who will turn 18 in a given (nominal) electoral term implies that people not expected to live should have their voter rights removed.

    Does the fact that we allow people to vote at a certain age imply that we should also remove people's voter rights at a certain age?

    It seems to me that we should allow the right to vote to as many people as we possibly can, and conversely, remove the right to vote from as few people as we possibly can (preferably none).

    We probably all know 16-year-olds who have more empathy and decision-making skills than some people twice their age. It seems prudent to err on the side of caution (as much as possible) when we decide as a society to prevent a certain group of people from being able to cast a vote.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to David Haywood,

    My tongue was in my cheek David, your idea isn't a bad one.

    Certainly with the NZ relatively short 3 year terms it has merit, personally I'd be keen for longer terms in NZ (4 years) which under your system would potentially see 14 year olds voting.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 499 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    That's a very narrow window when you consider it valid for people to want this: between discovering Public Address and turning 18. Although since this is pure anecdote, I claim to know thousands of youths who desperately want to vote, but can't because of discrimination that's illegal under the UN HR treaties NZ has signed up to. Viz, discrimination on the grounds of age is illegal, except when it applies to people of a certain age.

    Back when I was a youf I considered it offensive that lawmakers made bizarre laws that greatly limited what I could do, claiming some sort of democratic mandate while denying me the ability to participate in that mandate. From discriminatory age of consent laws, and before that outright making my sexuality illegal, through to trivia like declaring that my testimony would be ignored because of my age but if I defended myself I'd be tried as an adult. There's also the wide range of "adult" ages, from 5 or so when you can consent to some medical procedures (but not withhold consent, oddly) through to 25 when you're no longer financially dependent on your parents, by way of some truly insane ages like the various "operating dangerous weapons" permits (12..21), taking dangerous drugs (ages 5 and up) and owning things (18). Being disenfranchised wasn't the thing that most offended me about discrimination on the grounds of age.

    I suspect that if we did actually research this area, we'd find that there is a "window of civic responsibility" that means best results would come from enfranchising people between the ages of 12 and 20. Despite being well outside that window, I would be quite happy to see that happen (should my suspicion be correct, obviously).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1177 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    My tongue was in my cheek David

    Apologies, Glenn! With looking after two strong-willed children all day my tongue-in-cheek detector gets a little rusty.

    You no doubt recall that we had a discussion on this very topic in 1983 (Mr Child's social studies class) and I wondered if this was Round 2!

    [Gosh, just realized that was 33 years ago -- I think we might be getting on a bit (though it's infinitely consoling that no matter how old I get I'll always be 5 months younger than Jolisa).]

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I just found that someone has edited together all the bits of "A Good Day" with the Future Leaders for Democracy in into into one video.

    Enjoy!

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    Thanks for posting this Graeme - most interesting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.