Lawmakers will have to discuss the possibility of lowering the voting age in New Zealand after the country's Supreme Court said the current rules amounted to discrimination.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that lawmakers will be asked to vote on lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 following a top-level court decision.
The country's Supreme Court ruled on Monday that not allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote amounted to discrimination, in line with New Zealand's Bill of Rights.
Ardern said that she supported the move, but campaigners admit that it will be difficult to get the 75% support needed from lawmakers to pass the legislation.
The court's ruling means that parliament must discuss the issue, but it does not oblige parliament to change the voting age.
Youth campaigners welcome court decision
"I personally support a decrease in the voting age but it is not a matter simply for me or even the government,'' the prime minister said. "Any change in electoral law of this nature requires 75% of parliamentarians' support.''
Campaigners welcomed the decision, with co-director of Make It 16 campaign, Sanat Singh, calling it "a huge day."
"This is historic not only for our campaign, but for the country," the 18-year-old said, pointing to an array of issues such as climate change that have an existential impact on young people.
"That's why I think it's really important to get all hands on deck to make sure we can have a stronger future," he said.
"The government and parliament cannot ignore such a clear legal and moral message. They must let us vote," the campaign's other co-director Caeden Tipler added.
Protection against discrimination in New Zealand begins at 16 which ultimately led the Supreme Court to side with campaigners who argued that since 16-year-olds can drive and pay taxes, they should also be able to vote.
Several other countries, such as Austria, Brazil and Cuba, already allow voting from the age of 16, while other countries are debating lowering their voting age.
While New Zealand's two main conservative opposition parties will likely block the legislation after opposition leader Christopher Luxon said such a move is "not something we support," campaigners hope the country can at least take the first step.
Singh suggested lowering the voting age for council elections to 16 as this would only require a simple majority rather than a supermajority.
He also believes that support for lowering the voting age in general elections will continue to grow over the next few years.