When the original campaign was launched in 2019, the then Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft and the likes of the Greens also joined the chorus commenting that if the voting age were lowered it would 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.
They like to quote a multitude of studies that state, “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” – I guess they mean only when it suits them. But doesn’t all that make it sound perfect for them to choose who gets to govern our country? Insane.
One of the main arguments for lowering the voting age is to “encourage and increase voter turnout for young people”. I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but the fact is that the 18-24 year-old age group already has one of the lowest voter enrolment and voter turnout numbers. The lowest. Less than two-thirds are even enrolled compared to the over 35s, who are over 90% enrolled.
How is lowering the age to 16 going to improve engagement if 18-year-olds can’t even be bothered now?
We also often hear as a justification to lower the age that “at 16, you can leave school, leave home, work full-time, 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 they really believe 16-year-olds are grown up enough and mature enough to vote they should 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, buy cigarettes, go to a bar, gamble at the TAB, get married or be called up for jury service – and should be treated as an adult in court.
You can’t choose when you want to be treated by society as vulnerable children and when you want to be treated as responsible adults.
The fact that youth have a tendency not to vote is not a poor reflection on politics but a very real reflection of the apathy and self-entitlement that plagues many in our younger generations. It is evident in the attitudes we have seen in the increasing numbers of youth committing crime – self-entitled, apathetic, ill-disciplined, no respect.
What needs to change is the sense of personal responsibility in those young people. It seems they all want the ‘personal rights and 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 those 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’ in the last few elections 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.
All those who think 16-year-olds are mature enough and responsible enough to have the power to participate in our democracy, should be advocating for the adult court jurisdiction to be lowered to 16 too – because they surely would be mature enough and responsible enough to take personal responsibility for their actions – just like adults have to.
Former NZ First MP Darroch Ball was elected to the New Zealand parliament at the 2014 general election, is currently co-leader and spokesperson for the Sensible Sentencing Trust. This article was published HERE