Teenagers divided on lowering voting age after Supreme Court ruling

Teens are divided on whether New Zealand should lower the voting age to 16 following the landmark Supreme Court ruling.

While one teen said 16 and 17-year-olds should have a say in pressing issues that affect them, another said the move could rob them of their childhoods.  

The Supreme Court declared on Monday morning the current voting age of 18 is inconsistent with New Zealanders' right to be free of discrimination based on age.  

The Government will draft legislation to bring the voting age down to 16 but since it's entrenched it will require a supermajority in the House to change - and the National Party and ACT have already expressed their opposition. 

The decision comes after three years of campaigning from the advocacy group Make it 16 which unsuccessfully took its case to the High Court and the Court of Appeal in 2021.

Make it 16 co-founder and former youth MP Caeden Tipler, 17, told Ryan Bridge on AM they always knew the current voting age was a human rights violation but it is "massive" to now have legal backing. 

Tipler said while there is no "perfect age" to begin voting, 16 makes the "most sense" because at that age you can learn to drive, leave school, work and give sexual and medical consent.

"I don't think the views of 16 and 17-year-olds are any less valid than the views of anyone of any older age," they said.

However, former youth MP James Broome-Isa, 17, does not support lowering the voting age.

"It's robbing our childhood," Broome-Isa said.

"We need to be careful where we end up with this because we run the risk of turning this into a sort of Neo-Victorian era where we are pounding the responsibility onto some really young children."

Broome-Isa has a long history of voicing political opinions after he confronted two people over protesting on ANZAC day when he was 12. 

Tipler pushed back at this view, saying voting isn't what's taking away young people's childhoods.

"Climate change, COVID-19, education, the health system - all these things are what's ruining young people's childhoods," Tipler said. "Regardless of whether or not we can vote, these things will still happen, so it just makes sense we can have a say in the direction of a country."   

Broome-Isa accused people trying to lower the voting age of wanting the rights of adults but not the full responsibilities that come with adulthood.

"What you're saying is you deserve the right to vote but you're also not responsible enough to have the other views of adults such as the right to drink, smoke, vape etc," Broome-Isa hit back.

Tipler responded, "different ages are appropriate for different things". 

"If [the Prime Minister] cares about the rights of rangatahi, I mean the court has said that this is a human rights violation, then the Prime Minister will lower the voting age." 

If the proposed legislation is successful, lowering the voting age would not take effect at the next general election but could be implemented at local body elections as a trial first.