Students protest at Civic Square, Wellington, during the School Strike for Climate on March 15, 2019. (Photo: Marty MELVILLE / AFP via Getty Images)

It shouldn’t take a pandemic to give young people like me the chance to vote

The election delay means 17-year-old Gina Dao-McLay will have the right to vote this year. She’s excited – but says thousands more people like her deserve the same chance to have their voices heard.

I turn 18 on September 27 – a grand total of eight days after the original election date of September 19. As someone who cares deeply about politics, it was frustrating to know I would miss out on getting to vote by just over a week. So I feel lucky and super excited that the date change to October 17 means I’ll now get to have my say at the polls – so excited, in fact, that when I heard the news I temporarily lost the ability to spell.

​I’ve talked before about how much I wanted to vote in this year’s election. It means a lot to me to have my voice heard in our democracy.

There are some massive issues that I’m thinking about when it comes to how I vote in October. Climate change, poverty and how New Zealand recovers from Covid-19 are the things I care about. I want to know how each political party will address them because it’s my generation that will be impacted the most.

My friends and I regularly chat about political issues – whether we know they’re political or not. Being immersed in social media means we have access to more information than ever before, which gives us great awareness of what is going on around the world. We’ve seen how politicians’ decisions overseas make a massive difference in people’s everyday lives.

But I’m sad that many of my friends and thousands of ​other 16 and 17-year-olds won’t have the chance to have a say in who New Zealand’s decision-makers are on October 17.

I’m the co-director of ​Make it 16​, a campaign launched last year to lower the voting age to the same as it is in Scotland, Austria, Wales and many other places – 16. We believe voting is a fundamental human right that is vital for a strong democracy.

Next Monday, August 24, we’re going to the high court in Wellington to test whether the current voting age of 18 is a breach of human rights. Our lawyers will be asking the court to issue a “declaration of inconsistency”. In 2018, the supreme court upheld an earlier high court declaration of inconsistency on the prisoner voting ban. It was a key moment that led parliament to change the law just a few months ago. We’re hoping for a similar outcome.

I got lucky with the change in date, but there are still thousands of other young people like me who deserve their voices heard in the upcoming election. My passion to make this happen for them doesn’t stop just because I get to vote in October.

If the new election date means that you are now eligible to vote, head to ​ ​to enrol now. It takes just five minutes, and all you need is your New Zealand driver’s licence, passport or RealMe verified identity.

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