Election 2020: Whanganui student gets right to vote, but friend must wait another term

Photo / Bevan Conley
Vote 2020

Liam Johnson was one day shy of being eligible to vote in the 2020 election, but thanks to a date change he will now get to have a say.

When the general election date was changed from September 19 to October 17, about 5000 young New Zealanders like Liam became eligible to vote for the first time.

The Whanganui High School (WHS) student, who will turn 18 on September 20, said he was excited to be joining the democratic process for the first time.

"Although I wasn't expecting to vote in this election I am prepared," he said.

"The information on how to enrol and vote is really clear and accessible and I have a good awareness of the parties and their policies."

Liam said there are some good policies across most parties but he will not consider those parties with discriminatory policies.

"I would never vote for a party that wants to punish people because of their cultural differences or their sexuality.

"They would really set society back if elected.

"Education policies are important and I've given those a lot of consideration."

Fellow WHS student Aranga Molijn turns 18 on October 29 and is disappointed to miss out on this election.

Despite being motivated and politically aware, she has reservations about the Make it 16 lobby.

The New Zealand youth-led campaign took its case to the High Court last month asking for a formal declaration that the current voting age of 18 is discriminatory. The group says those aged 16 and 17 should also be able to vote.

"Some opponents of Make it 16 have said that lowering the voting age is just a means of giving parents an extra vote," Aranga said.

"I don't necessarily agree with that but I can see the logic behind it because as a young person you need to put in a fair bit of time to research the policies of political parties."

Liam said he thinks he will be making a more considered vote now than he would have two years ago.

"Some 16-year-olds might be ready but I would worry that others won't take the process seriously and that could interfere with our democracy."

Aranga said she also has reservations about New Zealand's Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system and, despite being politically aware, she finds it confusing.

MMP was introduced to replace the former First Past the Post (FPP) system after a public referendum in 1993 and was used by voters for the first time in 1996.

"I think education on MMP should be embedded in the NCEA system," Aranga said.

"I don't think NCEA needs a complete overhaul but there are definitely aspects that need to be improved like education around policies and our government."

Liam also has some concerns about possible changes to NCEA and said education policies would be an important consideration when he votes next month.

While Aranga waits another three years she will watch with interest to see how politicians perform, she said.

"I'll be voting for environmental action in 2023 so parties with strong policies on this will win my vote."

• To enrol to vote in the 2020 election go to vote.nz or call 0800 36 76 56.

Liz Wylie
Whanganui Chronicle 7/9/20

(*) Last Reviewed: September 8, 2020

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