Thursday, April 18, 2024

Bill to lower voting age goes to select committee

A Bill that lowers the voting age for local government elections from 18 to 16 has been introduced to Parliament.

The Bill passed its first reading and will be further considered in the next parliamentary term following a full select committee process.

The Bill was introduced in response to a Supreme Court Declaration of Inconsistency in November last year which determined that the voting age of 18 for both parliamentary and local elections was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and the inconsistency had not yet been justified.

It is the first time a declaration of inconsistency has been issued since the Bill of Rights Act was amended to provide for new procedures. In accordance with law, the Government is required to table its response in the House, which is then debated shortly after.

Changes to the voting age for general elections are not being considered as part of this, said Justice Minister, Ginny Andersen.

“Local and central government make decisions that affect young people every day. In order to change the voting age for parliamentary elections, support from 75% of MPs or a majority in a referendum is needed. It’s clear there isn’t sufficient support for this currently to make that change,” said Minister Andersen.

Local Government Minister, Kieran McAnulty said lowering the voting age for local elections had the potential to instil life-long voting habits.

“It can allow young people to first enrol and vote during a time when they are more likely to be living at home, connected to their local community, and attending school, than in later years,” he said.

If passed by the next parliament, the Bill would come into effect for the 2028 triennial local elections.

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