A New Zealand court ruled that the voting age of 18 was discrimination

WELLINGTON, Nov 21 (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the country’s current voting age of 18 was discriminatory, forcing parliament to debate whether it should be lowered.

The case, which has been going through the courts since 2020, was bought by advocacy group Make It 16, which wants the age to be lowered to include 16 and 17-year-olds.

The Supreme Court found that the current voting age of 18 was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights, which gives people the right to be free from age discrimination when they turn 16.

The decision triggers a process where the matter must be brought before parliament for debate and reviewed by a parliamentary committee. But this does not force Parliament to change the voting age.

“This is history,” said Make It 16 co-director Caden Tipler, adding: “The Government and Parliament cannot ignore such a clear legal and moral message. They should let us vote.”

The group says on its website that there is insufficient justification to stop 16-year-olds from voting when they can drive, work full-time and pay taxes.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government would draft a bill to lower the age to 16, which could then be put to a vote in parliament.

“I personally support lowering the voting age, but this is not just a matter for me or even for the government, any electoral law change of this nature requires 75% of parliamentary support,” she said.

Political parties have mixed opinions on the subject. The Green Party wants immediate action to lower the voting age to 16, but the main opposition party, the National Party, does not support the change.

“Obviously we have to draw the line somewhere,” National Party leader Christopher Luxon said. “We’re fine with the line being 18. A lot of different countries have different places where the line is drawn, and from our perspective, 18 is fine.”

Reporting by Lucy Cramer; Editing by Bradley Perrett and Sri Navaratnam

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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