New Zealand’s highest court on Monday ruled that the country’s current voting age of 18 was discriminatory, forcing parliament to discuss whether it should be lowered.
The case, which had been going through the courts since 2020, was brought by advocacy group, Make It 16, which wanted the age lowered to include 16 and 17-year-olds.
The Supreme Court found that the current voting age of 18 was inconsistent with the country’s Bill of Rights, which gave people a right to be free from age discrimination when they had reached 16.
The decision triggered a process in which the issue must come before parliament for discussion and be reviewed by a parliamentary select committee. But it does not force parliament to change the voting age.
“This is history,’’ said Make It 16 co-director, Caeden Tipler, adding: “The government and parliament cannot ignore such a clear legal and moral message. They must let us vote.’’
The group said on its website that there was insufficient justification to stop 16-year-olds from voting when they could drive, work full time and pay tax.
New Zealand, Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the government would draft legislation to reduce the age to 16, which could then be put to a vote in parliament.
“I personally support a decrease in the voting age but it is not a matter simply for me or even the government, any change in electoral law of this nature requires 75 per cent of parliamentarian support,’’ she said.
Political parties had mixed views on the subject. The Green Party wanted immediate action to lower the voting age to 16, but the largest opposition party, the National Party, did not support the shift.
“Obviously, we’ve got to draw a line somewhere,’’ said National Party leader Christopher Luxon.
“We’re comfortable with the line being 18. Lots of different countries have different places where the line’s drawn and from our point of view, 18 is just fine.’’