Newshub: Group of young people push Government to drop voting age to 16

Written by Anna Bracewell-Worrall, 19 Sept 2019

A group of young people will challenge the Government in the High Court, arguing that 16 and 17 year olds should have the right to vote.

“We feel like there’s been a breach of rights and it is unjustified… politicians can’t suppress our right to vote at that age,” said Make It 16 spokesperson Lily Stelling.

They want to vote, and are especially motivated to have their say on long-term problems like climate change. 

“The Government’s actions today are going to affect the youth the most,” said Make It 16’s Rebecca Matijevich.

But the Minister of Justice thinks they’d be better off talking to their local MPs.

“I don’t know exactly what they’re hoping to get out of the High Court. It’s an unusual place to go if you’re hoping to achieve political change,” Justice Minister Andrew Little told Newshub. 

The Make It 16 campaign is part of a global trend, heavily motivated by climate change, of young people urging politicians to listen to their viewpoints. The public face is 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who met with former US President Barack Obama this week and testified to congress..

“We want to see more. No party is doing enough about climate change,” said School Strike 4 Climate’s Sophie Handford.

Some of those in power are listening. 

“It certainly doesn’t hurt to have tens of thousands of people saying we want you to go further and faster,” said Minister for Climate Change and Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

New Zealand’s climate strikers are worried the Government will weaken its proposed climate policy.

Shaw desperately wants backing from the National Party on the zero carbon bill. That could mean softening the current methane target of a reduction by 24 to 47 percent by 2050. 

Shaw is still not sure where it will land.

“If I did [know], I probably would have stuck it in the bill in the first place,” Shaw said.

Climate change has galvanised young people across the world, and there’s more action planned for next week.

Those that are too young to cast a ballot are doing everything they can to be heard – in the streets and now in court.

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