Newsroom recently published an article by Dr Bronwyn Wood, briefly questioning whether or not the voting age should be lowered. In her article, Wood surveyed 303 people on the issue, with a 50/50 split amongst all age groups. She presented the three primary reasons respondants gave to justify their position against lowering the voting age.
These interested me, but these three arguments are frail at best. Let’s have a look.
1. Young people are not informed enough, too immature and lack enough life experience to vote
It’s totally wrong to say that young people aren’t informed enough. Time and time again, we see young people taking political action in other ways. Look at how many students campaign around the environment, gender inequality, and other important issues that are meaningful to them. Yes, there are certainly many young people who are apathetic or uninformed, but that’s not surprising when they don’t have the right to vote, and politicians don’t have any reason to work for them.
Nor should being uninformed or immature be a justified reason to be denied the right to vote. There are thousands of voters who are uninformed or immature, and able to vote. Heck, 5113 people voted for the Ban1080 Party in the 2014 election, and 1096 for the satirical Civilian Party.
Even then, that’s ignoring the most obvious argument against this: if people are uninformed or immature, they simply won’t vote. The same youth who are uninformed and immature are significantly less likely to give any care to politics. Having the right to vote doesn’t change that. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
2. Young people are heavily influenced by adults such as teachers and parents (and therefore subject to coercion)
This is no different for any young voters. In 2006, StatsNZ reported that over 60% of 18 year olds live at home, along with 50% of 19 year olds.
It’s also silly to think that only young people are influenced by their peers. Everyone is shaped by their upbringing and their environment, but young people tend to be far more indepent thinkers than anyone gives them credit for.
3. The ability to vote doesn’t match other responsibilities young people hold (as they are still largely dependent economically on adults)
Youth have part time jobs, they can join the military at 17, they can get married at 16, they can consent to sex at 16. They pay taxes, they can fight for our country, they can end up with children, yet they can’t vote.
Anyway, one’s economic situation is is no way the only issue anyone votes on. Young people have thousands of issues to look forward to combatting in the next decade- they’re the ones who have to live in it. Climate change, race relations, housing, family violence, dirty waterways, refugees- just to name a few. It’s their future, they have opinions, and they should have every right to have them heard.
Arguments against lowering the voting age tend to ignore the realities of the current voting population, attacking young people for things current voters are guilt of, and suddenly expect every young person who has the vote to use it. It’s simply unfair.