Electoral (Voting at 14) Amendment Bill

Electoral (Voting at 14) Amendment Bill

Member's Bill

Explanatory Note

This bill amends the Electoral Act 1993 to permit voting at age 14. The current voting age of 18 means that most people will be 19 or 20 before they are first eligible to vote in a general election. This can make it difficult for a life-long democratic habits. Allowing people to vote from 14 will ensure that the first election in which a person is entitled to vote will likely be one where they are living at home.

Setting the voting age at 14 is also consistent with the age at which the law says a young person is sufficiently capable to face criminal responsibility for their actions. Although young people may be dealt with by the Youth Court, from age 14, the law assumes full legal responsibility from criminal actions. If we expect young people to be bound by criminal laws, they should be entitled to have a say in them.

Given that the Electoral Act enrolment provisions automatically apply to the Local Elections, the reduced voting age will apply to local elections as well.

There may be concern that undue pressure may be placed on young people to vote a particular way. To alleviate this concern, the maximum penalties for corrupt practices, including the offences of bribery, treating, personation and undue influence are increased.

Consequential amendments are made to Juries Act 1981 and to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Electoral (Voting at 14) Amendment Bill

The Parliament of New Zealand enacts as follows:

1. Title
This Act is the Electoral (Voting at 14) Amendment Act 2021.

2. Commencement
This Act comes into force on the day after the date on which it received the Royal Assent.

3. Principal Act Amended
This Act amends the Electoral Act 1993.

Part 1
Amendment to principal act

4. Section 3 amended (Interpretation)
(1) In section 3(1), insert in its appropriate alphabetical order:
person of voting age
(a) means a person of or over the age of 14 years; but
(b) where a writ has been issued for an election, includes, on or after the Monday immediately before polling day, a person under the age of 14 years if that person’s 14th birthday falls in the period beginning on that Monday and ending on polling day
(2) repeal the definition of adult.
(3) In section 2(1), definition of Maori electoral population replace "18" with "14".

5. Section 60 amended (Who may vote)
In section 60(f) replace "18" with "14"

6. Section 74 amended (Qualification of electors)
In section 74(1) replace “adult person” with "person of voting age".

7. Section 78 amended (Exercise of Maori option)
In section 78(12), definition of person registered as an elector replace "17" with "13".

8. Section 82 amended (Compulsory registration of electors)
In section 82(2):
(a) replace "17" with "13"; and
(b) replace "18" with "14" in each place.

8. Section 92 amended (Compulsory registration of electors)
In section 92(1) replace "17" with "13".

8. Section 224 amended (Punishment for corrupt or illegal practice)
In section 224(1) replace "2 years" with "5 years".

10. Section 263 amended (Disclosure of personal information for enrolment purposes)
In section 263(2) replace "17" with "13".

11. Section 268 amended (Restriction on amendment or repeal of certain provisions)
In section 268(1)(e):
(a) replace "adult" with "person of voting age"; and
(b) replace "18" with "14".

Part 2
Amendment to the Juries Act 1981

12. Section 6 amended (Qualification and liability)
Replace section 6 with:
"Every person who of or over the age of 18 years and who is currently registered as an elector in accordance with the Electoral Act 1993 is qualified and liable to serve as a juror upon all juries that may be impanelled for any trial within the jury district in which the person resides. This section is subject to sections 7 and 8."

Part 3
Amendment to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

13. Section 12 amended (Electoral rights)
In section 12 replace "18" with "14".

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