By Darroch Ball, New Zealand First Spokesperson on Law and Order
The ‘Make it 16’ movement has recently been launched that is seeking for the voting age to be lowered to 16. For some reason it has taken a new step this time with the campaign wanting to take the issue to the courts.
The Children’s Commissioner has also joined the chorus commenting that if the voting age was lowered then it will give youth a voice and increase civic participation and voter turnout.
This argument makes no sense on so many levels it is pretty difficult to figure out where to begin.
It’s hard to believe that one of the main arguments for lowering the voting age is to “encourage and increase voter turnout for young people”. It may come as a surprise to the likes of the Children’s Commissioner that the 18-24 year old age group actually had the highest voter enrolment numbers of any other age group in the 2017 election. The highest. But they had one of the lowest that actually turned up to vote on Election Day or any day over the two weeks of advanced voting prior to that.
That should put in bright lights to everyone that engagement of young voters is not the problem. In fact the most interesting statistic is the fact that the lowest voter turnout was in the 25-30 year old age group.
The second argument made to lower the age is that “at 16, you can leave school, leave home, work fulltime, apply for a gun licence and fly a plane solo. So why can't you vote?” If this is the level of argument for justification to vote at 16 then we need to apply that logic across the board.
If the ‘Make it 16’ campaign and the Children’s Commissioner really believe 16 year olds are grown up enough and mature enough to vote they then also agree they should be able to join the military and be deployed overseas on combat missions. They should be able to be questioned by police without parental supervision, buy alcohol, go to a bar, gamble at the TAB, get married or be called up for jury service.
The irony of it all is that for the past few years the likes of the Children’s Commissioner have been staunch advocates for 17 year olds to be treated as children in the justice system and not be held to account in adult court. They argued that the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Children (UNCROC) states that 17 year olds are children so should be treated as such in New Zealand.
The Children’s Commissioner has also literally stated “we know that the parts of the brain that control logic and judgement are still developing at 17. A young person’s ability to control impulses and rationally think through consequences is poor.” Yet he wants them voting?
It is clear that this concept of lowering the voting age is based solely on ideology rather than on any sort of fact.
But if we are to tackle the issue that has plagued our youth then we need to take an objective look at exactly what the problem is.
The fact that youth don’t vote is not a poor reflection on politics but a very real reflection of the laziness and apathy that plagues our younger generations.
The responsibility actually should be placed squarely on the youth that can’t even be bothered turning up to vote - not the system. The system clearly doesn’t have to change when the 18-24 year olds already have the highest enrolment numbers.
What needs to change is the sense of personal responsibility in our young people. It seems they all want the ‘personal freedoms’ that our great country provides but are unwilling to accept the ‘personal responsibilities’ that must come with it in equal measure.
The simple fact is if the youth wanted the vote they would’ve been turning up to the ballot box in record numbers and kicking the doors down desperate to prove they want it. But instead of a ‘youth quake’ last election we got a ‘youth yawn’ which we heard resonating around the country from all those young people who would rather sleep-in and watch Netflix all day than get out and vote in the best democracy on this planet.
Darroch Ball is New Zealand First Spokesperson on Law and Order