Main menu

History Series - Legal Voting Age





For most of New Zealand's early history, voters needed to be at least 21 years of age to vote.

As in most other democracies, the voting age - or 'age of political maturity' - had always been 21. By the 1960s however, there was mounting pressure throughout the Western world for it to be reduced to 18. This was partly a result of demographic change and the expansion of secondary and university education.

Young people argued that if 18-year olds were mature enough to fight in wars, and especially if they could be drafted into the armed forces, then they were old enough to have a say in electing their government.

The increased student interest in politics due to the Vietnam War protests created an uneasy atmosphere. Many politicians agreed that it would be better if young people channelled their energies into mainstream politics rather than protest on the streets.

The New Zealand Parliament reduced the voting age, in 1969 to 20 years of age, and five years later they lowered it to 18.  

It’s been over 160 years since New Zealand’s first parliamentary elections, and today our electoral system gives virtually everyone aged 18 and over, the privilege and responsibility of voting for members of the House of Representatives – The New Zealand Parliament.