Voting age case to be heard by Supreme Court

Source: 1News

The Supreme Court will on Tuesday hear a claim from youth-led lobby group Make It 16 that preventing 16 and 17-year-olds from voting is unjustified age discrimination.

Voting - file image.

The Court of Appeal previously found in December 2021 that the voting age of 18 was inconsistent with the right to be free from age discrimination as stated in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (1990).

However, the court stopped short of issuing a formal Declaration of Inconsistency at the time of the ruling.

Make It 16 is seeking this formal statement from the Supreme Court, which won't overturn existing law but will “send a strong moral message to Parliament”.

“This is a significant day for the rights of rangatahi,” said co-director Cate Tipler.

Tipler told 1News that this case was a human rights issue and not a political one.

“Voting is protected under the Bill of Rights and [that] protects anyone aged 16 and over.

“For too long 16 and 17-year-olds like me have been excluded from voting booths,” Tipler said.

“It is the Government’s job to justify why they would breach such fundamental rights, and they simply haven’t done that.”

In 2020, a 1News Colmar Brunton poll found that only 13% of Kiwis supported lowering the voting age.

Tipler hopes the outcome of Tuesday's hearing might change some minds.

“As we move through the courts, more and more people are hearing our reasoning and understand why we’re pushing for lowering the voting age.”

However, Tipler said it wasn’t a “popularity contest", but about “doing the right thing".

"Even if the majority of the country still don’t support us, it doesn’t mean lowering the voting age isn’t the right thing to do.

"We have the legal argument, which is why we’re going to the Supreme Court but I think ethically, the morals are on our side too."

Green Party electoral reform spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman told 1News lowering the voting age would encourage young people to engage in politics.

"If people enrol to vote and vote in the first election where they become eligible, they’re far more likely to vote for the rest of their lives."

The Supreme Court hearing will take place on Tuesday between 10am and 4pm.