Stuff: Voting age should be lowered and civics education is needed in schools, council says

Written by Tina Law, 28 Feb 2020

Sixteen and 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote, Christchurch’s civic leaders say. 

The Christchurch City Council has added its voice to a growing campaign to lobby the Government to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16.

The calls have been made in a submission to the Government’s justice committee inquiry into the 2019 local body election. The inquiry aims to address the low voter turnout. The council believes lowering the age will increase the number of young people voting and start the voting habit at a younger age. 

But the lowering of the voting age must be accompanied by a greater focus on teaching civics in schools, it said.

About 41 per cent of Christchurch voters took part in October’s local election, slightly lower than the national average of 42 per cent. 

Cr Sara Templeton said the council wanted an emphasis put on civic education in schools so young people grow up knowing how they can participate in political decision-making and see the value of getting involved. 

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman wants the voting age lowered and has a members bill on electoral reform, but it would only go through Parliament if pulled from the ballot.

The council also wants the term of local and central government increased from three years to four.

The Government decided in 1990 not to change the term length, but the council said some time had passed since then and it was appropriate a change be considered. 

The council has also said in its submission it wants the Government to urgently investigate the best voting method to increase turnout, but believed a paper-based voting system should remain in the foreseeable future because of security concerns with other methods.  

It also said further consideration and research needed to be undertaken on whether the Electoral Commission should run local elections and the same voting system should be used for all councils. 

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