Should New Zealand lower the voting age to 16?

Morning Talk 30/11/2018

A teenager has suggested that New Zealand should lower its voting age to allow 16-year-olds to vote.

Writing for The Spinoff, 17-year-old Azaria Howell argues that lowering the voting age would increase voter turnout and would encourage politicians to take youth issues seriously.

“Unfortunately, right now the disheartening fact is that the youth voice is often ignored, all because we aren’t allowed to vote. Yet.” Ms Howell wrote.

In 2017, Scotland extended voting privileges to 16 and 17-year-olds after seeing a “high level of engagement” from younger voters in its independence referendum.

Political analyst and researcher Dr Bryce Edwards told RadioLIVE that he supports the idea of a reduced voting age.

“I don’t think there’d be any huge danger, I don’t think we are going to suddenly have very different Government.”

Dr Edwards suggested that 16-year-olds have support from school and family, which could be a better option for their first vote rather than “throwing them into the elections” when they turn 18.

But Morning Talk host Mark Sainsbury countered this argument, citing that the brains of 16-year-olds aren’t fully developed.

Dr Edwards admitted that while there are some issues around a reduced age, but suggested that teens who had difficulty understanding politics probably wouldn’t vote anyway.

“There would still be a lot of self-selecting based on ability to understand the situation. In a sense there would be a competency test. But it would be a self-selecting competency test.”

Listen to the full interview with Dr Bryce Edwards above.

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