March 29, 2023

A group claiming to be a nonpartisan, youth-led campaign is pushing for 16- and 17-year-olds to have the right to vote in New Zealand.

The group was formed during a youth parliament in 2019 and gave itself the campaign name Make It 16, according to its website.

The movement made headway as the teen activists won support from the liberal Green and Labour parties.

On Monday, it got another big boost.

The New Zealand Supreme Court ruled that preventing 16- and 17-year-olds from voting was a form of age discrimination, according to The Associated Press.

A few short hours after that, Labour leader and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said lawmakers will vote on whether to lower the voting age.

“This is history,” Make It 16 co-director Caeden Tipler said in a statement Monday.

“Today New Zealand’s highest court has confirmed that stopping young people from voting is a breach of our human rights,” said Tipler, whose pronouns were listed as “they/them” in the news release. “Preventing me and other 16 and 17 year-olds from voting is an unjustified breach of our right to be free from age discrimination.

“The government and Parliament cannot ignore such a clear legal and moral message. They must let us vote.”

“It’s a huge day,” said Sanat Singh, also a co-director of the group, according to the AP. “This is historic not only for our campaign but for the country.”

Singh said the group is pushing for a lower voting age so young people can have a say in “existential issues like climate change — as well as issues like pandemic recovery and the state of democracy,” the AP reported.

“That’s why I think it’s really important to get all hands on deck to make sure we can have a stronger future,” Singh said.

The next step in lowering the voting age in New Zealand is getting a 75 percent supermajority of lawmakers to agree on the issue.

While Ardern and other liberals are in favor of the move, they concede a supermajority isn’t likely.

New Zealand’s two primary conservative parties aren’t in favor of the change.

“It’s not something we support,” Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon said, according to the AP.

“Ultimately, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and we’re comfortable with the line being 18,” he said.

This isn’t the first time New Zealand has seen a push for a lower voting age.

In 1969, it was lowered from 21 to 20, and then in 1974, it was lowered from 20 to 18, where it remains.

Countries that have a voting age of 16 include Austria, Malta, Brazil, Cuba and Ecuador, according to the AP.

Should the voting age in the U.S. be lowered?

There is also a move in the United States to lower the voting age to 16. The group has been pushing the issue since 2015, according to its website.

The effort has been supported by the far-left wing of the Democratic Party, which has introduced several unsuccessful measures to lower the voting age in recent years.

“From gun violence to climate change, our young people are organizing, mobilizing and calling us to action,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts said on the House floor in 2019 as she pushed an amendment to a federal voting bill that would have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to vote.

“Our young people, including 16- and 17-year-olds, continue to fight and advocate for so many issues that they are passionate about from gun safety to the climate crisis,” New York Rep. Grace Meng said in a statement in February 2021 about another initiative. “They have been tremendously engaged on policies affecting their lives and their futures. Their activism, determination, and efforts to demand change are inspirational and have truly impacted our nation.

“It’s time to give them a voice in our democracy by permitting them to be heard at the ballot box.”

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