It’s time for a lower voting age

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Local elections are an important time for a community.

In fact, any election is an important time.

They are the whole basis of our society – we are, in theory at least, a meritocracy, where our leaders are voted in or out based on their perceived competence.

Who we choose as our decision-makers affects everyone – so why don’t we let everyone vote?

Roughly one million people in New Zealand are under the age of 18, but they do not get a say in who shapes the future for them.

Understandably, it would not make much sense to give infants a form to fill out, but surely by age 16 you can make an informed choice about how the place you live is governed.

You can drive a car and get married by that age, so surely you are capable of making a decision about who best reflects your interests.

Some would argue that people under the age of 18 would not make an informed choice, but, in all honesty, do the rest of us?

Half the time we just vote for whoever our parents voted for or whoever sounds the most coherent in a 10-second sound-bite.

And looking at the state of some of the current world leaders – adults do not necessarily know what is best!

I was in Scotland during the independence referendum in 2014, where the voting age was lowered to 16.

It was interesting to see teenagers debate the merits of becoming an independent country or remaining in the United Kingdom.

With low election turnouts in New Zealand, lowering the voting age would also mean students could be enrolled to vote in schools and educated on the procedures and importance of taking part in a democracy – and hopefully continue to be politically engaged.

In the age of digital overload and fake news, teenagers who are digital natives have a keener sense of sourcing information and knowing what is likely to be trolling.

The farthest action anyone has taken for climate change in Waitaki was the pupil-led protest which took place at Waitaki Girls’ High School earlier this year.

The pupils who spoke and were in attendance weren’t the lazy, naive teenagers they are often branded. They were better read on climate change than almost all adults, and had some practical ideas on what we could do here in Waitaki.

And rather than sitting at home and posting on Facebook, they were out there doing it.

The Waitaki district has a proud history of firsts – think social security, pineapple lumps and frozen meat shipments.

Could we be the first to back our youth and lower the voting age?