Submission: Electoral (Lowering Voting Age for Local Elections and Polls) Legislation Bill
About the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties
- The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties (‘the Council’) is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation which advocates to promote human rights and maintain civil liberties.
- We do not wish to make an oral submission to the Committee.
- The Council supports lowering the voting age in Aotearoa New Zealand to 16 years of age for both national and local elections, and therefore supports the Electoral (Lowering Voting Age for Local Elections and Polls) Legislation Bill.
- Section 21(i) of the Human Rights Act 1993 establishes that 16 years of age is the appropriate limit to protect our rights.
- The Council agrees with the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling that:
a minimum voting age of 18 years [is] inconsistent with the right in s19 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 to be free from discrimination on the basis of age; these inconsistencies have not been justified in terms of s 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
- Many other legal indicators of adulthood use the age of 16, such as leaving school, the age of consent, being able to marry, being able to drive, and obtaining a firearm’s licence.
- We believe that democracies should be expansive and allow as many people to vote as possible. Increased participation gives legitimacy to democratic government, while ensuring that people feel they have a say.
- Reducing the voting age increases the coverage and diversity of the electorate, which are important measures of our democracy.
- The Council also notes that there is precedent for lowering the voting age: in 1969 the voting age was lowered from 21 to 20. In 1974 it was then lowered to 18 years.
- While we are disappointed that this Bill only applies to local body elections we still see it as an improvement, and a step towards lowering it for national elections as well. We support passing this Bill.