Lowering the Voting Age

it’s all about competency


  • Marcus Roberts Maxim Institute




Voting rights, Bill of Rights Act 1990, Human Rights Act 1993, Independent Electoral Review


This article explores the recent high-profile debate around the current voting age of 18 in New Zealand. It examines the Supreme Court case brought by the ‘Make it 16’ campaign and then seeks to uncover the normative arguments for setting a minimum voting age. While the most common arguments for lowering the voting age have rhetorical force, they do not demonstrate why the voting age should be 16 rather than 18. The public debate does not address the key question: when do young people become competent so that they can responsibly and reasonably exercise the right to vote? This article concludes that a voting age of 18 is a better proxy for competency than 16 and that the voting age should not be lowered.


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Author Biography

Marcus Roberts, Maxim Institute

Marcus Roberts is a senior researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland. He was previously a senior lecturer in law at the University of Auckland.