Stuff: If 16-year-olds want to vote, who are we to say no?

Written by Felix Desmarais 05:00, Sep 21 2019

OPINION: I doubt I would agree now with who I would have voted for when I was 16.

I had my convictions then, and they were no more or less righteous or rubbish than they are now I’m 31.

Our opinions, like ourselves, can change. That doesn’t make them less valid at the time.

The 'Make It 16' campaign was launched at Parliament on Friday. Co directors Dan Harward Jones, 17, front left and Gina Dao-McLay 16, front right, are pictured with, from left, Jackson Graham, 20, Lily Stelling, 18, Rebecca Matijevich, 19, Ella Flavell, 18, Pierson Palmer, 17, and Olivia Trass, 17.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFFThe ‘Make It 16’ campaign was launched at Parliament on Friday. Co directors Dan Harward Jones, 17, front left and Gina Dao-McLay 16, front right, are pictured with, from left, Jackson Graham, 20, Lily Stelling, 18, Rebecca Matijevich, 19, Ella Flavell, 18, Pierson Palmer, 17, and Olivia Trass, 17.

Sixteen and 17-year-olds are now gunning for the right to vote. Who are we to say no?

There are plenty of people over the age of 18 who are not informed enough or mature enough to vote. I’m sure you can name three off the top of your head.

But they can and do vote, because that’s how democracy works. One person, one vote – even if we don’t agree who they might vote for.

Make it 16 Campaign co-director Gina Dao-McLay, 16, says politicians are blocking the voices of 16 and 17 year olds.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFFMake it 16 Campaign co-director Gina Dao-McLay, 16, says politicians are blocking the voices of 16 and 17 year olds.

On Friday evening, the “Make it 16” campaign launched at Parliament, and they announced their plan to test their right to vote at the High Court.

If you’re organised and engaged enough to spark a campaign for the right to vote, including taking it to court, it’s a pretty strong indication that you have enough intelligence and maturity to have your say at the ballot box.

School Strike 4 Climate shows the investment and engagement of under 18s, writes Felix Desmarais.
ROSA WOODS/STUFFSchool Strike 4 Climate shows the investment and engagement of under 18s, writes Felix Desmarais.

It’s clear there are plenty of young people clever enough and engaged enough to vote, if School Strike 4 Climate is anything to go by.

These campaigners have a valid point too – if you can leave school, leave home and pay tax on a fulltime job at 16, you should be able to vote. No taxation without representation, as the saying goes.

If they don’t want to vote, or don’t think they know enough to vote, they won’t. Just like many people over the age of 18 do now.

Greta Thunberg, leader of the School Strike 4 Climate global movement, is 16 years old.
JACQUELYN MARTIN Greta Thunberg, leader of the School Strike 4 Climate global movement, is 16 years old.

And just like many people over the age of 18, they might vote even if they don’t know enough. 

Since these arguments can apply to all of us, young or old, it seems that the only reason to keep the voting age at 18 is ageism.

What are we afraid of? That they might change the world?

I say good on them, and good luck to them. 

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