Make It 16, the advocacy group campaigning for a lower voting age, argued their case to the New Zealand Supreme Court, Te Kōti Mana Nui o Aotearoa, on 12 July.
Backed by a pro-bono legal team, the rangatahi are claiming that preventing 16- and 17-year-olds from voting is unjustified age discrimination, and in breach of our sexiest piece of legislation, the Bill of Rights (NZBORA).
So how did Make It 16 get their case all the way to the Supreme Court?
The group first took its case to the High Court, which found that although setting the voting age at 18 did discriminate against 16- and 17-year-olds, it was justified and did not breach NZBORA.
Make It 16 appealed against the decision, and in a judgment released in December 2021, the Court of Appeal decided the young people made some valid points and found that the Government had not justified the age discrimination.
In the third stage of their legal bid, Make It 16 is seeking a formal declaration of inconsistency in New Zealand law, which the Court of Appeal refused to do.
If the Supreme Court rules in favour of Make It 16, it will not change the voting age. But Co-Director Cate Tipler says it will put pressure on Parliament to let 16- and 17-year-olds have a say on the decisions that will impact them the most.
Tipler says that while they are hoping for a formal declaration of inconsistency, their movement is much bigger than just the courts.
“We have a petition with over 6000 signatures, the Government has established an electoral law review to look into this issue, and just next week, Youth Parliamentarians selected by MPs from all parties will be showing their support for a voting age of 16.”
The group also recently delivered an open letter to parliament with the signatures of over 70 local government elected members in support of lowering the voting age in time for the upcoming local elections.
“It is particularly outrageous that in local elections, due to the ratepayer roll, property owners can vote multiple times, but 16- and 17-year-olds like me can’t even vote once,” says Tipler.
Anything that gives landlords less influence on issues like transport, housing, and climate change gets Craccum’s vote.