The New Zealand Supreme Court is forcing the nation’s parliament to debate over whether the voting age should be lowered to 16. On Monday, the high court ruled that the current minimum age of 18 is discriminatory.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quickly announced that lawmakers will take up the decision. And while she threw her backing behind the change, it is uncertain whether the radical move has enough support to become official.
Altering the minimum age would require 75% of parliamentarians’ support, something the Associated Press reports is currently out of reach.
The case finally made its way to the New Zealand Supreme Court after weaving its way through the court system since 2020. Justices ruled that the present voting age of 18 runs counter to the nation’s Bill of Rights.
Citizens are legally free from age discrimination when they reach 16.
Supporters of the “Make It 16” push base their beliefs on the view that issues such as climate change have a greater impact on the young. Sanat Singh, one of the movement’s directors, said he believes that it is critical to get “all hands on deck” when making these decisions.
The government of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be unveiling draft legislation to lower the voting age to 16.
This is after NZ's Supreme Court ruled that the current voting age of 18 breaches young people’s rights.
NZ's next general election is set for 2023. pic.twitter.com/0exZKqWlx7
— BFM News (@NewsBFM) November 22, 2022
The ruling, however, only forces parliamentary discussion and a review by a select committee. It does not require the actual change.
The Green Party threw its support behind the change. Spokesperson Golriz Chahraman said that “young people deserve to have a say in the decisions that affect them, both now and in the future.”
New Zealand’s two conservative parties announced they do not favor lowering the voting age further.
The island nation lowered the threshold in the 1960s from 21 to 20, and in the 1970s lowered it again to 18.
Movements to reduce the voting age are not confined to New Zealand. In 2021, 125 members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment to the “For the People Act.” This measure was co-sponsored by “Squad” member and radical progressive Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).