The High Court has declined to make a declaration that the provisions in the Electoral Act 1993 and the Local Electoral Act 2001 fixing the minimum voting age at 18 years are inconsistent with the right to be free from discrimination in s 19 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
One of the prohibited grounds of discrimination under s 19 is discrimination on the basis of age, over the age of 16. The High Court found there is apparent inconsistency between the voting age provisions and the s 19 right to be free from discrimination on the basis of age.
The Court nevertheless held that restricting eligibility to vote to those aged 18 and over is a justified limit on the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of age. The Court considered it reasonable for a democratic society to grant voting rights to adults and not children, and to draw a line between adults and children at the age of 18. The Court emphasised the “heavy policy content” of the issue, and suggested “a healthy dose of deference to Parliament is warranted”.
The decision can be downloaded here.