By MASON PUTT
On the 17th of August, when Jacinda Ardern announced that New Zealand’s 2020 election was to be delayed a month due to a second wave of Covid in New Zealand’s largest city, I was stoked. Sorry-not-sorry Auckland. This news meant that I would be allowed to vote, something that I’d wanted to do for years.
But now a new movement has made its way to the High Court.
The Make It 16 youth-led campaign advocates for the lowering of the voting age to just 16. But why is this movement more relevant than ever before?
Despite what some (*cough* adults *cough*) may think, many teenagers nowadays are seriously interested in politics. Whether that be organising and planning school climate strikes, posting an “Aunty Cindy” meme, or joining in on lunchtime debates, teens are more politically aware than ever before.
Part of this is down to social media. New Zealand’s youth are more informed about, and exposed to, political opinions and debates than any other time in history. Tap the screen twice and you can send your friends the latest New Conservative policy to laugh at. We literally have all the information at our fingertips!
The reason that this movement is so important is the complete lack of adequate recognition of youth issues in parliament. Youth suicide rates, teenage mental health, a student’s perspective on education; almost all of the perspectives on these significant issues that make their way into government are from adults, not the young people actually affected. The reason why so many young people have flocked to the Chloe Swarbrick banner is because she’s full of youthful energy – she’s young, she understands and acknowledges these issues.
But Swarbrick has been an exception to the rule. A vibrant patch of green in a sea of dusty white.
If young people were allowed to vote from the age of 16, it would force older crusty politicians to recognise youth issues and really give New Zealand’s youth a voice in how our country is run.
The first few snowballs of the avalanche have already started to roll with other youth-led movements such as the School Strike 4 Climate.
For context, when the voting age was last lowered in 1974 from 20 to 18, it was substantially influenced by youth-led movements such as the Anti-Vietnam War protests. This proved to those in power that those 18 and 19 year old “whippersnappers” were more than socially and politically aware enough to vote.
I ask, how is this period of social revolution any different? These recent protests surely prove that New Zealand’s youth are ready for this change again.
One popular argument against the Make it 16 movement is that young people would not turn up to vote. This is simply not the case.
When Scotland held a referendum on whether to leave the United Kingdom, 75% of voters aged 16 – 17 voted, a far higher percentage than those aged 18 – 24. And what’s more, these young people have continued to vote as they have gotten older, so not only will young New Zealanders who are 16 and 17 cast their votes, but it’s proven that this ingrains a habit of voting for years to come.
Ultimately, decisions about the future have a greater impact on us teens than those who make them. Currently, youth have very little voice in how our country is run and yet are considered to be the future of New Zealand.
Look out world, the Make it 16 campaign is here to say that the future is now.
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