Friday, September 20, 2019

Challenging the voting age in court

The Make It 16 campaign to lower the voting age is launching this afternoon, and they have already announced plans to challenge the law in court:

The campaign, named "Make it 16" will launch at Parliament on Friday, with plans to take their case to the High Court, testing the rights of 16 and 17-year-olds to be able to vote in elections.


"If a person is over 16 then it is unlawful for any businesses or organisations to discriminate against them based on their age.

"Politicians ... are allowing discriminatory laws to stay in place and we are going to challenge that through the court system."

The campaign will argue the current voting age of 18 was "unjustified age discrimination" and that the High Court should declare it inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

Which sounds good, but almost certainly doomed to failure. Not because the court will find the age limit to be a "justified limitation" (which would require it to assess the merits and whether this was the minimum necessary intervention), but because it won't even get to that stage. Why not? Because the age-limit is hard-coded into the "electoral rights" clause of the BORA, and its very hard to find the BORA inconsistent with itself.

If we want to solve this, we need to legislate for it. Speaking of which, its the last day to submit on the Electoral Amendment Bill. Have you made a submission yet? While its a reserved provision requiring a referendum or supermajority to change, using your submission to demand a lower voting age is a good way to get politicians to start caring.