Ed Said - The political debate
In light of the upcoming Local Government elections there had been questions about a perceived ‘old boys network’ in relation to some local councils. This led to comments about the need for new and younger blood which led in turn to discussions on lowering the voting age from the current 18 to 16.
“At the age of 16, we allow our young people to get behind the wheel of a car, work full-time, register as an organ donor, donate blood, consent to sex and own a gun and so we should allow them to vote,” so said 17-year-old Molly Doyle who stood in for Climate Change Minister James Shaw in this year’s Youth Parliament.
A little ill-thought out I believe. Impetuous and simply not understanding the long-term ramifications of short-term decisions. Alternatively, you can't marry at 16, you can't buy alcohol at 16, you can't serve in the army at 16 so why should you be able to vote?
Voting, for a 16-year-old, can easily be seen as something of a novelty and unless they know the candidates they will be guided by their parents. Is that a real reflection of the intent of an election? In terms of percentages 18-25-year-olds are always among the lowest responders. Would this change were the age lowered to 16? Millennials and Generation Z will comprise a large percentage of the population heading into the 20s but unless they can tear themselves away from their headphones the situation will remain unchanged.
Those in the 14 and 17-year age group are currently very vocal on having something done about climate change though with no suggestion as to what this should be. I really don’t think a horde of chanting teenagers is any recommendation of any ability to handle a council post in a one-on-one situation. Furthermore, how effective would a Year 12 or 13 be in council while enduring the pressure of a bursary year and possibly heading for University?
So, while the lowering of voting age is meant to give consideration, information and opportunity to our potential ‘leaders of tomorrow’ the fact remains that currently the 18-25 age group are among the lowest segment of voters in terms of numbers, have been for some considerable time, and are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. As long as roading, rates and infrastructure are the major issues, no teens will even comprehend such issues – simply because they are not there yet.
I have grandchildren, 15 in all, of which six presently fall into the 16-21 age group, but I know for a fact they all have part or full-time jobs, are all fully conversant with the latest games, music, smart phones and movie stars but have not the slightest knowledge or interest in politics.
The voting age had remained at 21 since New Zealanders voted for their first MPs in the mid-1800s. Pressure to reduce the voting age mounted during the 1960s, the post-war ‘baby boom’ having greatly increased the numbers of young people. With three-quarters of MPs to support it the voting age was reduced to 18 years in 1974, 18 being widely considered the age of adulthood in New Zealand.
Make no mistake, today’s teens will the leaders of tomorrow, but you cannot put an old head on young shoulders. Neither should we try.
Just my thoughts.