A bill to lower the voting age to 16 and make civic education compulsory in schools has the support of youth groups, but has found little favour among MPs.
Green MP Sue Bradford yesterday announced her intention of adding the Civics Education and Voting Age Bill to the parliamentary ballot.
"Youths are as knowledgeable and responsible as a big portion of the voting population. That's the whole point, really," Ms Bradford said.
But she faces an uphill struggle as some senior politicians dismissed the bill and others questioned how responsible the average 16-year-old was.
Ms Bradford said she had the support of the Greens and others, but needed the backing of at least one major party.
Senior MPs from Labour and National expressed reservations yesterday, though both parties said they would not take a position on the bill until it came before the House.
The bill's fate also rests with the luck of the ballot, though Ms Bradford has had extraordinary fortune before with three of her bills being plucked in the past two years.
The compulsory education part of her bill gained some favour among MPs, but Ms Bradford said she was not prepared to split the bill at the moment.
However she would consider it if the bill was drawn and defeated, she said.
"Splitting the bill now would be tantamount to defeat, [but] I'm always willing to gain what I can," Ms Bradford said.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, National's Murray McCully and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters were against lowering the age.
"I think 18 is an adequately young age at which to start the important process of voting," Dr Cullen said.
"Why not 16, why not 14, why not the start of the third form?"
Mr Peters said it was "populist nonsense".
"You're going to have Mum and Dad voted down by the kids while paying for the school fees. Where else in the world does this work?"
He said he did not oppose making civic education compulsory.
"We've neglected that for a long time. But this is not that. The bill's [primary purpose] is to give voting entitlement to 16-year-olds." Ms Bradford hoped to have the support of the Maori Party and some of the Labour Party, as well as widespread public backing.
"I'm reluctant to do a lot of work in Parliament until it's actually drawn from the ballot, and I'm very hopeful that it will be," she said.
The Maori Party and Youth Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta welcomed any initiatives to increase voting among youth, but would not say if they supported lowering the age.
Youth groups and the Children's Commissioner, Cindy Kiro, offered their support, but youth expert Sue Bagshaw cautioned that young people needed to be taught voter responsibility.
"It's a really good idea, but a lot of 18- year-olds don't vote because they don't know how to," Dr Bagshaw said.
Ms Bradford said it made little sense that 16-year-olds could get married, have children, be taxed, but not vote.
She said the messages to her inbox had been mixed, and referred to her child discipline amendment, which comes into force today.
"It looks like being quite a controversial issue, just like some others," she said.