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Media Release: Greens Announce Plan To ‘expand Our Democracy’ And Give 16 & 17 Year Olds The Vote

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Amanda Cohn
NSW Greens MP
17 February 2023

Albury (Wiradjuri Country): The Greens NSW today launched its ‘Expand Our Democracy’ plan ahead of the March election laying out a plan to include 16 and 17 year olds as eligible voters in NSW State and Council elections.

Greens MP and spokesperson for Young People, Abigail Boyd, joined the candidate for Albury and youngest Greens candidate to contest the NSW 2023 State Election, Eli Davern, and a lead candidate for the Greens Upper House ticket, Dr Amanda Cohn, to launch the plan The Greens will be taking to the NSW State Election.

“Young people have valuable contributions to make to our democracy – it’s time their voices were heard,” Greens MP and spokesperson for Young People Abigail Boyd said.

“Lowering the voting age to 16 will help to increase voter turnout, foster political awareness among young people, and ensure that all voices are heard in the democratic process. It’s vital for building a stronger, more representative democracy for all,”

“The global evidence is unequivocal. When young people are enfranchised, political participation increases, trust in democracy increases, and society benefits from a renewed enthusiasm and engagement in the democratic process, as well as from the fresh perspectives of a younger demographic of voters,” she said.

The Greens plan will:

  • Change the Electoral Act 2017 to entitle persons over the age of 16 years old to vote in elections in New South Wales. This means 16 and 17 year olds would be able to vote in the 2024 local government and 2027 state elections.
  • Ensure that there is no penalty for these newly empowered young people for not voting if they are unwilling, unable or unaware of the option to exercise this democratic right.
  • Provide for persons over the age of 14 years old to enrol to vote in preparation.
  • Increase funding to the NSW Electoral Commission so it can hire sufficient full time staff to engage with young people between elections to ensure young people understand their rights and how to participate in elections.

Quotes attributable to Dr Amanda Cohn, a lead Greens Upper House candidate:

“This proposal is not revolutionary - we would be following the lead of many other jurisdictions globally, but there’s no doubt if we were to make this change it would be socially profound.

“Young people are at the forefront of public debate on critical issues affecting them, from climate change to mental health.  16 and 17-year-olds can work, drive, pay taxes, and provide informed consent for medical procedures - they deserve to also be able to participate in democracy and have their voice heard at elections,” Dr Cohn said.

Quotes attributable to Eli Davern, Greens candidate for Albury:

“The New Zealand Supreme Court has ruled that preventing 16 and 17 year olds from voting is unjustified age discrimination and a breach of their Bill of Rights Act. 

“Why should we accept that the rights of 16 and 17 year olds in Australia and in New South Wales should be any less than that of our neighbours?

“We are seeing young people leading efforts for social and climate justice around the world.  By opening up our democracy to younger people we’ll see a new generation of leaders emerge who will take action,” Eli said.

Read the Greens' full policy here: https://greens.org.au/nsw/expandingtherighttovote

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Amanda Cohn
NSW Greens MP
17 February 2023
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