Published: 22 December 2022
Hutt City Council voted on Tuesday to endorse the Make It 16 campaign to lower the voting age in New Zealand to 16 for local and central government elections. The Government recently announced it will introduce a Bill to Parliament lowering the voting age, and Council’s decision supports that.
Mayor Campbell Barry says this shows the Council supports young people participating in democracy.
“Our young people are some of the most politically engaged people. With low voter turnout across local and central government elections, it makes sense to enable young people to vote.
“We know once someone votes once, they’re more likely to make it a habit for life by voting in future elections. It makes sense to support that habit starting early while many of our young people are in structured schooling - where civics education could be taught and voter enrolments encouraged.
“We have a young population in Lower Hutt and the region, and we’re proud to join our neighbouring councils in Wellington, Kāpiti, and Porirua in endorsing the campaign,” says Campbell.
Council also supports lowering the voting age through two separate Bills, so that changing the age in local elections would only require a 50 percent majority in Parliament as set out in the Local Electoral Act, as opposed to the 75 percent supermajority required to lower the voting age in central government elections as set out in the Electoral Act.
Dealing with both issues through two separate Bills would make it easier to get Parliament’s support for lowering the voting age in local elections. Mayor Barry says this could mean young people would at least be able to participate at a local level.
“If the voting age for central government elections isn’t lowered through this process, local elections could be an appropriate starting point - which would at least give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to participate in their local democracy,” says Campbell.
If the Bill passes first its reading in Parliament, consultation on the issue will be carried out by a select committee, which will consider public submissions.